The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has updated the rules governed by the Children’s Online Privacy Proteaction Act (COPPA) to cover apps and social media, but not app stores or site buttons.
In a careful balancing act the FTC caught up with the times to update COPPA (passed in 1998) it include rules for kids online to encompass social media, apps, and app stores. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter successfully argued that app stores (like the iTunes App Store and Google Play) and Like/Tweet are exempt from many of the rules, though the apps and app makers aren’t. It’s a careful balance that makes sure that Apple isn’t held responsible (or required to extensively vet) for a kid’s app that breaks the rules (if by all other standards the app is okay, I would gather). Likewise, Facebook and Twitter didn’t want to be held responsible for how their buttons were being used (since some of that is out of their control). From the Wall Street Journal:
But in a departure from rule changes the government proposed in August, third-party “plug-ins” on websites—things like Facebook’s “Like” button and ads placed by advertising networks—will only have to meet child online privacy regulations if they have “actual knowledge” that they’re collecting information through a website or app that targets kids.
The FTC’s updated rules also explicitly exempt app “platforms” such as Apple’s App Store from having to make sure that the apps they sell comply with the law.
I completely support protecting kid’s privacy online and think app makers do need to do more to inform parents about what information is being used, however you can’t make regulations so onerous that people can’t work effectively in them. I think this is a good first step and strikes a good balance for time being.