Amazon embroiled in child privacy row

Kids can post personal details on the web...
Written by Declan McCullagh, Contributor

Kids can post personal details on the web...

Amazon.com has been accused of being too lax when it comes to protecting children using its website. A collection of advocacy groups has claimed that the e-tailer has taken insufficient steps to prevent children from posting personal information on its website, potentially endangering their privacy. Eleven groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Junkbusters, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking that it investigate whether Amazon is letting pre-teenaged children post reviews of toy products without their parents' consent, which violates the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). A response from the FTC could help establish ground rules for how COPPA affects commercial websites primarily intended for adults. The 1998 law applies to data-collection by any website or online service directed to children under 13 years old. But Amazon's website states that it is intended for use only by adults and says, "If you are under 18, you may use Amazon.com only with the involvement of a parent or guardian". Amazon spokesman Bill Curry called the complaint groundless because "Amazon.com is not a site directed at children". Curry acknowledged that a bug in Amazon's software caused a web form, designed to allow children to review products anonymously, to work only intermittently, but he said the company had begun work on fixing it before the complaint was filed with the FTC. "A second issue is children writing reviews and putting inappropriate information in reviews like a street address," Curry said. "When that happens and gets through the system, we remove it as soon as we're aware of it, and that's a longstanding policy. We have screens and automated systems in place. If something gets through that system, as soon as we learn about it we take it down. We're constantly making the hurdles higher."
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