Ads Can Now Be Targeted Toward Children Under 13

By Justin Lafferty 

A change in the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) means that children under the age of 13 can be shown ads targeted toward them when they’re online. This could lead to Facebook lowering its age of admission.

Drafted in 1998 — well before MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks burst onto the scene — the Federal Trade Commission updated COPPA Wednesday. The amendments work to protect children online, noting that certain information cannot be collected without parental consent, such as geolocation information and photos.

However, the act also notes that it’s now OK to advertise to children under the age of 13 (which is Facebook’s minimum age requirement):

The definition of personal information requiring parental notice and consent before collection now includes “persistent identifiers” that can be used to recognize users over time and across different websites or online services.  However, no parental notice and consent is required when an operator collects a persistent identifier for the sole purpose of supporting the website or online service’s internal operations, such as contextual advertising, frequency capping, legal compliance, site analysis, and network communications.  Without parental consent, such information may never be used or disclosed to contact a specific individual, including through behavioral advertising, to amass a profile on a specific individual, or for any other purpose.

Contextual advertising is the key phrase in that statement.

Facebook has been pushing for changes to COPPA for a while, despite opposition from privacy groups. We’ve reached out to Facebook for its response to the changes to COPPA, and we’ll post a statement when we get one.

Readers: Do you think the minimum age on Facebook should be lowered?

Main image courtesy of Shutterstock.