Protecting Data Privacy at School and at Play

The NY Times asks, “With the growing use of mobile devices in school, and with advertisers compiling data on children’s web activities, what can parents do to stop unwelcome tracking?”

From the piece:

Parents trying to protect their child’s privacy and data security online are grappling with two main concerns — information-sharing by children and data-mining by companies — only one of which they may have some meaningful control over.

With the growing use of mobile devices and apps at home and in school, an increasing number of companies are compiling and analyzing details about children’s online activities. Some sites that offer video games featuring cartoon characters, for instance, track children’s activities around the web with the aim of tailoring advertisements to them. Some apps popular with children can collect information like their whereabouts or phone numbers.

A federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or Coppa, is designed to provide some online safeguards. It requires online operators to obtain a parent’s consent before collecting personal details from a child under 13.

Unfortunately for concerned parents, that law applies only to sites and apps specifically directed at young children — and not to general-audience sites frequented by adults and children. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, for instance, reported that digital marketing companies are scouring, storing and analyzing the images people post on Instagram and Pinterest, another photo-sharing site, to help advertisers hone their pitches.

With the increasing use of mobile devices in school, parents should ask what security protocols are in place.

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