Most parents probably don't mind allowing their children to access the fan websites of some of their favorite teen stars.
So it makes little sense that the company operating sites for pop stars Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Demi Lovato collected personal information about thousands of children accessing those sites without parental permission.
But that's exactly what the Federal Trade Commission said Artist Arena did, collecting names, email addresses, street addresses and cellphone numbers of about 101,000 children age 12 and under, all without permission.
Why the sites wanted or thought they needed so much personal information from its young users isn't clear.
But it's not just an unsettling invasion of privacy; it's illegal.
The company agreed Wednesday to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle the charges against it.
Under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, operators of websites must get parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information about children under age 13. The law is designed to allow parents to control who gets sensitive information about their children.
Now, trying to keep pace with new technology like mobile apps and facial recognition, the FTC is looking to strengthen the law, to the chagrin of companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple.
Clearly the Internet is an important part of American life, and one that appeals to digitally savvy youngsters.
And just as clearly, America needs strong laws that protect children, allowing them to access appropriate content, while preserving something they don't yet realize is so important -- their privacy.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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