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Trying to Put Children in an Online Oasis is Just a Mirage

Today NetChoice member ACT‘s Morgan Reed testified at yet another privacy hearing.  This one was before the House Energy & Commerce Committee on children’s privacy online and the need to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Mr. Reed brought to the attention of all present the hard work of app developers to protect children’s privacy and how industry self-regulation is working, a real oasis for privacy.

However, the privacy advocates did what they always do, which was to call for more Congressional regulations.  And once again, when asked fundamental questions about the need for regulations, the privacy advocates balked and failed to show a need for additional regulations.

For example, the panelist from Common Sense Media said that parents are the lynchpin to protecting children online and repeatedly stated that we should do more to educate parents.   If parental education is the answer, why is he calling for regulation of businesses?

Self-regulation is working, a real oasis for privacy.

Rep. Bono Mack asked the privacy advocates, “Why is behavioral advertising bad” when even the FTC is “not aware of any operator directing online behavioral advertising to children?”

The privacy advocates could not answer this simple question.  Instead they could only say, “We need to monetize content, but not in ways that are unfair to children” and “We engage and empower parents.”   Two non-answers to a very important and very direct question.

After failing to again show harm, the privacy advocates then called for an “eraser button” which would magically remove any online content.  But when Rep. Markey, whose own bill requires the creation of this eraser button, asked about the button’s implementation, neither privacy advocate had any idea how it was technologically feasible.  In essence, they don’t know how eraser button will be implemented, but they want one nonetheless.

In the end, there was no showing of harm, no showing why behavioral advertising is bad, and no showing of feasibility.

How many more times do we need to search out a problem before realizing that perhaps it might not exist?

How long before privacy advocates stop trying to place children in an online oasis and realize it’s, as Mr. Reed says,  “just a mirage.”