Thursday, February 15, 2007

Child protection what?

The new trend of toys that can be connected to Internet, as reported by, brings back the issue of the problems presented by the lack of broad and consistent privacy and data protection in the US. While the US keeps repeating the old and outdated discourse that self regulation is the best way of creating an e-business friendly environment, the evidence keeps suggesting that lack of consumers' confidence over the way their personal information is treated is the main factor hampering further development of e-commerce and self regulation does nothing to boost that confidence. Going back to the toys' story, most of the websites to which the kids will be directed collect personal identifiable information, and in most cases only when the kid is below 13 years old the parents' consent is required. Still, when the parents' consent is required, the reasons for which the personal identifiable data can be used are in state of flux, because the companies normally "reserve[] the right to modify [the] policy" "in order to be in compliance with the legal requirements or to provide better customer service [emphasis added]", which means whenever they want. Isn't time that in this side of the Atlantic people understand that to regulate is not to go against businesses but to ensure a more secure and predictable environment for customers and business too? I am looking forward to hearing what Veronica is going to say about this in her presentation on the Role of the State, parents and technology in the protection of children and teenagers in Internet to take place during the Globalization, Technology and Development conference here in Saint Louis next April.

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