COPPA: Bad For Kids
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Description: COPPA is unconstitutional! It doesn't deserve to exist! Here is a basic-level explanation about why COPPA is a poor United States law.
Note: This is a research paper that Deltik made for his AP Computer Science class.
COPPA: BAD FOR KIDS
Children don't have rights! A United States history instructor, Lori Holmes, was unable to list a single right for citizens under the age of 18 years. Preliminarily, Holmes suggested that "children have the right of protection," but rights could be given up; protection can not be given up. Protection for children is a requirement in the United States.1
The Internet is filled with a myriad of places that collect personal information. People register to Web sites all the time. There are about 2 billion Internet users in 2010 and around 220 million in the United States alone.2 Web sites are collecting personal information from a large number of people.
In 1998, United States lawmakers passed two laws―the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.
COPA was an attempt to block the content that children should not view. To enforce the law, certain Web sites would be required to conduct age checks for every visitor. This violated the right of free speech, not for the children, but for the Web masters. The United States Supreme Court declared COPA unconstitutional.3
COPPA is not to be confused with COPA. COPPA is very similar to COPA, but it restricts a much wider range of Web sites. Instead of blocking only age-unsuitable Web sites, COPPA prevents kids under 13 years of age to register to a large amount of sites without a signed permission form. Parents then have the right to take full control over the registered account. Surprisingly, COPPA is not considered unconstitutional, nor was it ever legally challenged.4
The Federal Trade Commission actively enforces COPPA. Xanga, a popular social networking site, was fined $1,000,000 for allowing minors to register on their site.5 Hershey Foods, the popular candy manufacturer, also got in trouble with the FTC. They had an intangible online permission form rather than the required physical paper permission form.6
Somehow, COPPA is enforced for foreign-based Web sites even if the other country does not have rules similar to COPPA.
Not all United States Web sites must comply with COPPA. For some unknown reason, nonprofit Web sites are permitted to collect personal information from minors without parental consent. Additionally, Web sites that are not targeted for audiences under 13 years of age are not required to comply. If a Web site is not complying and the Web master is not aware that he or she is collecting information from under-13-year olds, then COPPA does not apply.7
Many children cannot be tricked by neutral age-screening. Neutral age-screening is how Web sites can get a child's birthday and on the next page state, "Ha ha! You can't register here because you're not old enough. Don't try the back button because I disabled registration for you." Children are often trained to clear cookies, which will allow them to return and register to their desired Web site with a false age.8 Few Web sites have methods to prevent this form of lying. RuneScape corresponds an age to an account immediately and locks the account up for age-appropriateness without collecting personal information. The child would have to try again with another username.9
Still, children lie about their age in the first place, making younger kids difficult, if not impossible, to detect. This means that the FTC is encouraging them to be dishonest.10
COPPA applies for kids under 13 years of age. The reason that the FTC gives can be paraphrased, "Preadolescents are more vulnerable to Internet dangers and don't know about online safety." It seems that teenagers should also be protected by COPPA by the FTC's reasoning. Teenagers appear to know about as much about Internet dangers and safety as younger people.11 The FTC could possibly assuming that younger-than-13 year olds are getting attacked more because there are more evil organizations targeting that audience. The personal information hijacking service, #lolwutgoat, has always focused on young children. They release personal information in reports called "doxes".12 Even kids almost unknown to the Internet world have been attacked. A person alias iJames, an inconspicuous Internet user, was technologically destroyed and "doxed" by a malicious cracker.13
Nobody has challenged COPPA.14 The law is virtually untouchable. Those under 13 years of age want to legally challenge COPPA, but they can't because they have to be 18 or older to have any rights, including the right to legally challenge. Between ages 14 and 17, the child still feels bad about COPPA, even though it doesn't apply to him or her anymore. At age 18, all the responsibilities of life hit the new adult. He or she would not be interested in challenging COPPA because they agree with it or won't care about it. Parents want to be able to control their kids, and COPPA is a good way to ensure that they can.15
Bart Scott 57 once typed, "COPPA is just as much unconstitutional (as much but no [more so]) as every other law based on age. It is denying someone either a right or a freedom based solely on their age, which is discrimination (firstly) and a violation of one's First [Amendment] right to free self expression, which does (or at least strongly should) include the right to self-exposure. That is, the right to expose oneself to information. Not to other people. We don't need to see that here."16
COPPA is a pointless law. It shouldn't exist. COPPA absolutely is bad for kids.
Reasons why COPPA is a poor law:
- Denies the freedom of self-expression (Constitutional Amendment 1)
- Discrimination by age
- Exploitable by lying
- Encourages children under 13 years old to lie
- Applies only to Web sites that are commercial, which are the ones that are safest
- Reduces the Web masters' freedom of speech to younger kids
- United States law that applies to foreign countries without similar laws
- The affected audience never had a say in this law
- Needs complicated unconstitutional methods to be effectively enforced
- Restricts content that should be available to everyone
- Applies for children-oriented registration sites but not adult-oriented registration sites
- Virtually unenforceable with the amount of Web sites there are today
1 Interview with Ms. Lori Holmes, Cedar Ridge High School, Round Rock, Texas, September 2010
2 World Internet Usage Statistics News and World Population Stats <www.internetworldstats.com/sta…>
3 COPA Commission <www.copacommission.org/>
4 COPPA FAQ's <www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.…>
5 FTC fines Xanga for violating kids' privacy <www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14718350/>
6 FTC Receives Largest COPPA Civil Penalties to Date in Settlements with Mrs. Fields Cookies and Hershey Foods <www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/02/hershe…>
7 Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule <www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/64fr598…>
8 Interviews with Elementary School Students, September 2004
9 RuneScape Create a Free Account <secure.runescape.com/m=create/…>
10 User Contributions on National Youth Rights Association <forums.youthrights.org/showthr…>
11 Retrospective Observational (Statistical) Study by Nicholas Liu about Social Attacks
12 #lolwutgoat <www.lolwutgoat.com/>
13 Interview with James D., New York, 03 August 2010 11:24:13 AM CDT
14 COPPA FAQs <www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.…>
15 Interviews Imtiaz Rahman's "Get Nick Back" Party of IsMyWebsite <www.ismywebsite.com>, 11 October 2010
16 Internet Forum Post by Bart Scott 57 <forums.youthrights.org/showthr…>