The Illegal Collection, Selling, and Misuse of Children’s Data by Technology Companies

In the digital age, children are increasingly using technology, and their online activities generate a vast amount of personal data. This data is a valuable asset for technology companies, which can use it to target children with advertising, track their online behavior, and even build profiles of their interests and preferences. However, the collection, selling, and misuse of children’s data raises serious ethical and legal concerns.

The Collection of Children’s Data

Technology companies collect children’s data in a variety of ways, including:

  • Tracking children’s online activities: This includes tracking the websites they visit, the videos they watch, and the games they play.
  • Collecting personal information from children: This includes their names, email addresses, phone numbers, and home addresses.
  • Using cookies and other tracking technologies: These technologies can track children’s online behavior across different websites and apps.

The Sale of Children’s Data

Technology companies often sell children’s data to third-party data brokers. These data brokers then sell the data to advertisers, marketers, and other businesses. Children’s data can be used to target them with advertising, track their online behavior, and even build profiles of their interests and preferences.

The Misuse of Children’s Data

In some cases, children’s data has been misused in harmful ways. For example, children’s data has been used to:

  • Target children with predatory advertising: Advertisers can use children’s data to target them with advertising for unhealthy products and services.
  • Track children’s online behavior without their knowledge or consent: This can be used to create profiles of children’s interests and preferences, which can then be used to target them with advertising or other marketing messages.
  • Build profiles of children that can be used to identify them in the real world: This information can be used to track children’s movements, identify their friends and family, and even access their personal information.

The Legal Landscape

In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law that protects the online privacy of children under the age of 13. COPPA requires websites and online services that collect personal information from children to obtain parental consent before doing so. However, COPPA has been criticized for being outdated and difficult to enforce.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data protection law that applies to all companies that collect personal data from individuals in the European Union. The GDPR includes stricter requirements for the collection and use of children’s data.

What Can Be Done?

There are a number of things that can be done to protect children’s data online, including:

  • Strengthening data protection laws: Data protection laws should be updated to reflect the changing digital landscape and to provide stronger protections for children’s data.
  • Enforcing existing laws: Regulators should do more to enforce existing data protection laws, including COPPA and the GDPR.
  • Educating parents: Parents should be educated about the risks of online data collection and how to protect their children’s privacy.
  • Giving children more control over their data: Children should be given more control over how their data is collected and used.

Protecting children’s data online is a complex challenge, but it is essential to ensure that children are safe and protected online. By strengthening data protection laws, enforcing existing laws, educating parents, and giving children more control over their data, we can help to create a safer and more privacy-friendly online environment for children.

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