COPPA has played a important role limiting the data collection practices of online advertisers targeting children under 13. It has been a very effective safeguard. Anyone who actually researches the online ad business recognizes that: once you are 13, online marketers treat everyone the same in terms of behavioral targeting and other applications that threaten privacy. But if you are under 13, because of COPPA–you don’t see the same kind of targeted online marketing. Berkman should do a better job in its research providing its readers a more informed assessment of how online marketers have created what the industry calls a digital advertising “ecosystem.” The system is designed to collect tremendous amounts of data on individual users, track them everywhere [including merging online and offline databases instantly, so a user can be auctioned off to the highest bidder]and also deeply influence our behaviors. Companies involved with Berkman or Berkman staff are even using the latest advances in neuromarketing to create digital ad campaigns designed-in their own words–to influence our subconscious. When Berkman writes about COPPA and other online marketing issues, it should always prominently disclose [page 1] that it is funded by many leading advertisers–including Google and Microsoft [http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/about/support]. Mr. Palfrey should also ensure his work as a venture investor–including with online marketing companies–is part of that disclosure–especially to Congress and the FTC: http://www.hcp.com/john_palfrey
I hope Ms. Boyd will also address the extensive work done by her employer on online marketing–including its targeting of youth (for such things as junk food). See, for example:http://advertising.microsoft.com/research/Doritos-Xbox; She should also examine its efforts on neuromarketing:http://www.emsense.com/press/game-advertising.php
This is a brief comment.
This is a comment by Jeff Chester on a post by danah boyd about the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. danah’s article opened my eyes to the real reason for the requirement that one be 13 or over to set up a Facebook account (nothing to do with safety). But Chester’s comment, while maybe harsh in its implications for the Berkman Centre, exposed and evidenced a whole set of practices that we probably knew were going on, but didn’t really want to believe were going on. To quote myself: “When you think it can’t get bigger, it gets squared and squared again…”