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The Latest Attempt To Address The Online Data And Privacy Crisis
From:
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Sunday, October 30, 2022

 

 

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Bestselling Author of the Award-Winning Book "Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies" (Nicholas Brealey, 2020)    



Some crises strike companies quickly, are addressed by corporate executives, and soon fade from the spotlight.

Other crises capture the public's attention but are eventually placed on the back burner, unresolved. But they can get moved to the front at any time.

Consider the case of the online data and privacy crisis, which made international headlines a year ago when whistleblower Frances Haugen told Congress that Facebook and Instagram negatively impacted the mental health of teenagers,

Not surprisingly, there were several rounds of accusations and finger-pointing over who was to blame for the crisis, the extent of the impact of social media on mental health, and what had or should be done about it. The crisis has been simmering in the background ever since.

Senators Seek New Reforms

That crisis could be back on the front burner again, thanks to U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who is leading a group of Senate colleagues in asking the Federal Trade Commission to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act .

Markey said in a press release that he wants the government agency to:

  • Expand the definition of "personal information" that is covered under the Act.
  • Require that social media platforms protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of children's data.
  • Implement regulatory protections that reflect the increased use of online platforms for educational purposes.
  • Limit the data a child needs to share when participating in online activities.

"Experts agree that we have reached a crisis point for children and teens online, as the rates of mental health challenges for them soar, and the U.S. Surgeon General has called on technology and social media companies to address these threats to young people," the lawmakers wrote to the FTC.

"In countries around the world, government entities have begun to take action by enacting policies that combat pernicious online threats to kids. The United States must now do the same," they said.

'On The Right Track'

"Markey's proposed changes are on the right track, and it's encouraging to see lawmakers take a closer look at the best way to protect children," Eve Maler, chief technology officer of ForgeRock, and an expert in digital identity and cybersecurity, said via email.

'Going One Step Further'

"To make meaningful changes, I recommend going one step further by broadening current regulatory requirements to encompass 'smarter'consent: more powerful permissions around data collection, use and sharing," Maler noted.

"Many of today's requirements for compliant online consent don't factor in smart devices or mobile apps, which often operate in ecosystems such as smart homes and can remember preferences for a long time," she pointed out.

"I also recommend strengthening parents' and guardians' ability to retain appropriate control and oversight of their child's modern digital experiences until they become old enough to understand and manage their own online data."

'A Great Example'

"One great example of a company that has done things right is the BBC, which serves content to people of all ages," Maler observed.

"The broadcasting company has a website called BBC Bitesize that offers parents and young students quizzes and learning guides. It has had to adhere to both historical (Article 8 of GDPR) and new (Children's Code) regulations around age-appropriate personal data handling and design."

The BBC is "enabling kids to have online experiences that are not only age-appropriate but also compliant by routing them to voice-first methods of authentication. Contextually sensitive and adaptive verification of kids' identity is an important prerequisite for handling personal data safely and simply," she commented.

What Companies Are Doing Wrong

"Businesses with a casual attitude about age data accuracy are doing it wrong," Maler claimed.

" To protect children, businesses must understand when they're interacting with a child. Given today's regulatory environment and the decreasing tolerance for abusive or inappropriate online experiences for children, it's fair to say that services that do not verify a user's age are doing things very wrong.

'Immense Pressure To Change'

"There's immense pressure to change the current widespread practice of accepting users' self-asserted age since children can easily submit false information to access age-restricted content," she noted.

"In fact, a recent study by Ofcom, an agency that regulates telecommunications in the U.K., discovered that about one-third of children ages 8-17 create fake profiles to register an adult account, and nearly half of children ages 8-15 have accounts claiming they are 16 or older," Maler concluded.

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Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and the bestselling author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). Order the book at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0827JK83Q/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Segal is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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