New campaign targets online privacy for children and teens

New campaign says legislature must support children's online privacy.
Common Sense Media's new campaign asks schools to do more to teach students about online privacy.

Amid growing concern about how much information students are revealing about themselves in their personal profiles on social networking web sites and other online services, the national child advocacy group Common Sense Media is asking adults, parents, and teens to help make a stand for online privacy by demanding that companies provide an “opt-in” feature for sharing the information of all children under the age of 18.

Common Sense Media’s national campaign, called “Do Not Track Kids,” began from what the group considered to be startling statistics about online privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 50 of the most popular U.S. web sites are placing intrusive tracking technology on visitors’ computers—in some cases, more than 100 tracking tools at a time. Fifty sites popular with U.S. teens and children placed more than 4,000 “cookies,” “beacons,” and other tracking technologies on their sites, the Journal reported—and that’s 30 percent more than were found on similar sites aimed at adults.

“Tracking technology scans in real time what people are doing on a web page, then instantly assesses their location, income, shopping interests, and even medical conditions,” explained Common Sense Media. “Individuals’ [personal] profiles are then bought and sold on stock-market-like exchanges that have sprung up in the past 18 months.”

The worst part, says Common Sense Media, is that children over the age of 13 have no say on whether or not their personal information is collected—or their personal profile is shared.

In a survey of more than 2,000 adults and more than 400 teens in August, conducted by Zogby International on behalf of Common Sense Media, 75 percent of parents said they would rate the job that social networks are doing for children’s online privacy as poor.

“Anytime personal information is taken without consent is worrisome,” said Alan Simpson, vice president of policy for Common Sense Media. “According to the poll, they’re worried about child predators and their children’s ability to secure a job or college placement because this information is floating around out there. It really has become the wild, wild West out there.”

According to the poll, a majority of teens (56 percent) don’t believe their personal profile is secure and private online, or they’re not sure if it is. Seventy-nine percent of teens also revealed that they think their friends share too much personal information online.

Meris Stansbury

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