Google, Facebook and Twitter are crying all shades of foul amidst announcements by the FTC’s for a revision to the COPPA i.e. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. All three have released statements and sent in objections to the proposed changes to the Act which in essence will ensure that tech giants lose out on a lot more than their user’s supposed “freedom of speech”, “first amendment rights” and “education opportunities for children”. There’s a vast difference of opinions on the issue where privacy advocates are placing the responsibility with tech firms and others are wondering whether parents should be held liable for what happens to their children.
Mutually exclusive is nothing
Even if a parent were to watch their child like a hawk there’s no way of ensuring that their children stay safe. Many resort to implementing tools such as parental control software or pc monitoring software only to realize that their reach limited. While it’s true that parents need to take provisions to protect their own child, their efforts are restricted by the rate at this technology is taking over everything. Schools are equipped with computers; your child’s friends own the latest gadgets too. Unless a parent can physically follow their child around on a constant basis there’s no way they can be expected to completely eliminate threat from the child’s ambit.
Google, Facebook and Twitter are insisting that there’s no way they can go about ensuring that child privacy is safe because of a dire lack of resources; in addition, the firms argue that it’s virtually impossible to selectively exclude children from their online grasp. Parents and advocacy groups have a hard time believing that there’s a lack of resources, but a larger debate revolves around whether it’s really the tech firms responsibility to ensure that child privacy should be protected. A larger problem is that parents are often forced to ignore small issues and unseen problems because a growing number are either single parents, divorced, or running latch-key families.
Tech firms turn the other cheek
Anger has also arisen because in the past all three firms have turned a blind eye towards cases of cyber bullying and other abuse related issues. The law will potentially curb this problem as well. Privacy pundits argue that by ensuring that companies are held responsible for their conduct online inadvertently children will also be protected. The problem with that argument is that there are children who are numbered in millions, using all kinds of websites, pretending to be much older than they actually are. In that case the argument that it isn’t possible to track all children online becomes significantly valid. A counter to that problem is to make sites accountable for keeping children who are visibly 12 years of age and under safe.
At the end of the day many parents are also asking what first amendment rights and freedom of speech issues are plaguing their children who haven’t even hit puberty yet. Many are chalking the reluctance on part of the tech firms to loss of profits because of the potential loss of advertisement revenue.
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