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New COPPA Rules Offer a Glimpse of Small Publishers' Future

8/27/13

By Ken Magill

Score one for privacy zealots.

As a result of changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act put into effect on July 1, ad revenue has plummeted at some small publishers offering games and educational resources, according to an article last week on AdAge.com.

The rule changes significantly expanded what is considered personally identifiable information that trigger the need for parental consent, including location information, videos and photographs and persistent device IDs. Ad networks and other third parties may not knowingly collect children's information or track their behavior.

Translation: No more behavioral ads served to sites kids might visit. Why? Who the hell knows? The move certainly doesn’t protect anyone from anything harmful.

The results for small publishers, however, were predictable enough.

After ad network Casale pulled behaviorally targeted ads purchased through real-time bidding from Apples4TheTeacher.com, ad pricing at the site dropped from $3 per thousand impressions to 32 cents, according to the site’s founder Judy Miller.

Her site caters to teachers but also draws kids.

"The law is so subjective for what is a kids' site and what is a mixed site, it just has thrown me into a tailspin," said Miller, according to AdAge.

As a result, she has decided to spend thousands of dollars for a Truste audit in hopes of getting a roadmap to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s latest bit of anti-advertising idiocy.

Miller is concerned that she may have to sift through all 10,000 pages of her site to remove ad tags that could surface behavioral ads, according to AdAge.

"I'm a one man band," she said, according to AdAge, noting she's spent the last 15 years building her site. "It's been my baby; it's been my inspiration," she continued, becoming emotional during a phone interview, AdAge reported. If the Truste audit results in a "laundry list" of necessary changes, she said, "I'm pulling the plug," she said, according to AdAge.

That’s 15 years of one woman’s professional life. Poof. Gone. For nothing. All at the whim of an unaccountable federal bureaucracy staffed with people who have no idea of the effects of their actions.

When the rule changes were announced, then FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz assured us everything would be hunky dory.

“Let’s be clear about one thing: under this rule, advertisers and even ad networks can continue to advertise, even on sites directed to children,” Leibowitz said last December. “Business models that depend on advertising will continue to thrive. The only limit we place is on behavioral advertising, and in this regard our rule is simple: until and unless you get parental consent, you may not track children to build massive profiles for behavioral advertising purposes. Period.”

Business models that depend on advertising will continue to thrive. Pfffft. Why don’t you feed that load of hooey to Judy Miller while she’s picking up the pieces of her shattered professional life, jackwad.

And what piece of privacy idiocy would be complete without Jeff Chester popping up like a jack in the box and making a baseless assertion bereft of supporting specifics?

He wasn’t quoted in the piece but he did offer a couple comments, one of which demonstrated a stunning degree of callousness:

“This article doesn't fully reflect the realities of the marketplace. It also views the issue so narrowly, ignoring the significant privacy and consumer protection issues about protecting children from the invasive and far-reaching data collection practices of the industry,” he wrote.

Translation: It didn’t contain a quote from Chester in which he was allowed to make baseless assertions without being challenged.

“The kids business is booming, across platforms and applications,” Chester continued. “But this article does contribute to the ‘sky is falling’ lobbying rhetoric always echoed by the IAB. They don't want COPPA to work, because they fear that if kids and their parents can receive better privacy, others--like teen and everyone else--will be next.”

[emphasis mine]

Miller was on the verge of tears thinking about the prospect of shuttering a 15-year labor of love and Chester has the heartless audacity to say: The kids business is booming, across platforms and applications?

Well yeah, if you’re Nickelodeon. If you’re a small publisher like Miller, well, too bad.

Chester’s right about one thing. COPPA and its pernicious effects on small publishers in and around the children’s sector are just the beginning.

If privacy advocates have their way, all behaviorally targeted ads will go the way of those once aimed at kids. Small publishes will cease to exist and the Jeff Chesters of this world will look at the Huffington Post and CNBC and say online publishing is booming.

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