As Connected Devices Increase, Children’s Privacy Concerns Do Too

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about children’s privacy online, both in regards to information being shared and collected and the security of various tech toys.

In February 2016 security researches reported that tech firms aren’t doing enough to protect the online privacy and safety of children. With so many new, connected devices, there are also a multitude of new privacy risks – and these risks are especially dangerous for children. Think about all of the mobile devices, smart toys and social media that kids have access to. Even things like baby monitors can pose a threat.

Concerns continue to increase, and in June 2016 attention is shifting to “always on” devices that are part of the Internet of Things, such as Amazon’s Echo. There are questions around if these devices are breaking the existing laws to protect children’s privacy (which are outlined below). A report by The Guardian asserts the companies behind these devices could be fined large sums of money if their devices are collecting children’s data without parental consent – which it seems they are – by storing voice commands/audio files collected by everyone in the home including children. Further concerns arise from how these devices are being marketed to children, in an attempt to “turn them into customers” (as well as collect their data).

As mentioned, there is a law intended to protect children’s privacy online – the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which was passed by the FTC. This law puts regulations in place that require parental consent for children under 13 using various sites. Many fines have been given under this law, but as the Guardian reports there is a lot more we can do and that “the FTC has been criticized repeatedly for not enforcing law.” A recent ruling (July 2016) by a federal appeals court in favor of Google & Viacom continued to increase these privacy concerns.

At Golden Frog, we believe in privacy and security for Internet users of all ages. As privacy risks continue to increase, awareness continues to be the most important step in combating the privacy risks online. Understanding these risks exist, and the scope of these risks, can be a good first step in protecting yourself and your child online. Once you’re aware of the risks, you can better find the tools to ensure your child’s privacy (and your own) is protected.