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Updated FTC laws require parental OK for apps to collect children's personal info

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced on Wednesday changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that aim to protect personal information about children, with liability extending to mobile applications, but not entire platforms like Apple's iOS App Store.

The adopted amendments to COPPA are designed to strengthen privacy protections for minors and will also give parents greater control over personal information that websites and online services can collect from children under 13.

The changes were made as a result of a review initiated by the FTC in 2010 to ensure that COPPA keeps up with evolving technology and changes in the way children use the Internet. In particular, the FTC was interested in how increased use of mobile devices and social networking can affect children.

The list of personal information that cannot be collected from children under 13 now includes geolocation information, photos and videos. Companies have also been offered a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent.

The updated law also notes that Apple's App Store and Google Play for Android are not defined as "operators," meaning the new rules do not require Apple or Google to police their own storefronts for potential violations. The FTC said the App Store and Google play are exempt because they "merely offer the public access to child-directed apps."

However, the FTC did say in a statement issued last week that both Apple and Google need to take responsibility for enhanced transparency on their mobile application stores. The FTC feels there is little to no information available to parents regarding the collection and transmission of data from applications targeted at children.

In a statement issued Wednesday, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the commission will continue to prioritize children's online privacy in an "ever-changing technological landscape.

"I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children's online activities," Leibowitz said.