Monday, September 21, 2015

"User engagement" by companies of social media photos and posts could violate COPPA

A New York Times story (by Sydney Ember and Rachel Abrams) Monday about “user engagement” and social media, especially Instagram, does bring up the issue of child protection.
Companies are taking photos of social media accounts and sometimes using them to sell ads to friends, or in other promotional materials.

While this may breach terms of service and cross legal barriers with the FTC for users who use privacy settings (keeping their content “whitelisted”), the practice could run afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, for pictures of minors under 13, where parental permission is required.

It is also obviously sensitive for teenagers, because some mature more rapidly than others.  Some girls might look almost “grown” even by 12, and boys sometimes by 14 or 15.  Our culture has extended (legally) the time for which minors must be protected (relative to older cultures and past generations) to various ages for various purposed (from 18 to even 25) partly because of the amount of education and adult judgment it takes to function in an individualistic society like ours.