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New kids' online privacy rules give pass to Apple, Google, Facebook

December 19, 2012|By Jessica Guynn

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Google scored a victory in the Federal Trade Commission’s new rules governing kids’ online privacy that were announced Wednesday.

Federal regulators exempted app purveyors such as Apple's App Store and Google Play from having to police apps. Providers of plug-ins such as Facebook with its “Like” button were also exempted.

According to the new rules, they will only be responsible if they have "actual knowledge" that an online service or app is not complying with the new rules governing how they are allowed to collect information from kids.

Rule changes that the FTC proposed in August would have made the tech giants more responsible for apps that violate the rules. But the tech companies engaged in heavy lobbying efforts in recent months to dial back the proposals, arguing they would stifle innovation and hamper economic growth.

During a news conference Wednesday, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said regulators never meant to include app stores and simply clarified their proposals to reflect that.

As a result, Apple and Google will not have to make sure the apps in their stores comply with children’s privacy rules that require kids' apps and websites to get consent from parents before tracking kids' online behavior or gathering kids' photos, videos or location.

Children's advocates had pushed for more regulation of technology companies that distribute children's apps.

"The industry definitely did the best it could to lobby to water down the FTC's proposed updates. But what was interesting is that they all took that lobbying in different directions – each group wanted someone else to have the responsibility. The app developers passed the buck to the app stores. The app stores passed the buck to the advertisers. In the end, no one in the industry at all was willing to step up and take responsibility for protecting kids," said James Steyer, CEO and founder of advocacy group Common Sense Media. "Fortunately, the FTC struck an appropriate balance."


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