Day: December 23, 2007

Online Privacy and our Children

I recently had a situation in my own life come about with my 17 year old daughter and her use of the internet. To respect her privacy, I won’t go into it, but suffice it to say, I had some grave concerns with what she was doing, who she was talking to, and the information she was giving to these people.  So, i looked into the online laws with regards to children.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed by Congress as part of the Omnibus spending bill in 1998. It took effect in April 2000. Before passage, COPPA received one hearing in the Senate and no separate consideration in the House.

COPPA requires “verifiable parental consent” before a commercial website operator may collect information like e-mail addresses from children. For the internal use of the website, this means getting an e-mail from the parent. For other uses, this means talking to a parent, or getting a parent’s snail mail, fax, or credit card number.

The premise of the bill is politically bullet-proof: We must protect children. The details are more tricky: Protect them from what?

Congress passed this law in the absence of evidence that collection of information by commercial websites harms children in any way. In fact, commercial websites pose little danger to children because they stay in business by making children and their parents comfortable and safe. The next best reason for the law is the idea that marketing to children somehow harms them. If this is the case, television is the monsterous threat, not the Internet.

Yet the COPPA law singled out the Internet for special regulation. This raised the cost of serving children online by $50,000 to $100,000 dollars per website, with additional per-child costs as well. On the Internet, which is driven by diversity and small business innovation, this is a lot. It means that new ways of teaching children will not develop and competition for serving children will be thwarted. Instead, dominant Internet companies will capture the children’s market.

More importantly, many children will lose access to valuable educational content and healthy online interaction. These will tend to be the children of poor, non-English speaking, or absentee parents. Other children will learn that lying about their ages gives them access to worlds that other children enjoy. Either way, COPPA shows again that their is no substitute for parenting, online or off.


Disney: The Mouse That Won’t Roar by Ben Charny, ZDNet News (October 11, 2000)

Internet Sites for Children Say New Law Hurting Business San Jose Mercury (AP) (September 13, 2000)

Privacy, Microsoft, and the Feds: This Recipe for Disaster Just Got Us a Little Steamed by Stuart McClure and Joel Scambray, (May 19, 2000)

Internet Privacy Law Costs a Bundle by Carolyn Duffy Marsan, Network World (May 16, 2000)

Cybersitters Report for Assigned Duties by Sonia Arrison, Washington Times (May 6, 2000)

The Hidden Costs of Online Privacy by James W. Harper, Tech Central Station (March 27, 2000)

Comments? (Subject: COPPA)

child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, education, family, foster care, foster parent, government, law, legal, missing child, murder, system failure
Caseworkers changed, destroyed records in starvation case


Documents: Counties changed, destroyed records in starvation case


Caseworkers from two neighboring counties and a state agency doctored or destroyed records pertaining to a 4-year-old girl whose starved body was found stuffed into a picnic cooler, according to a newspaper’s review of court documents.

One caseworker testified in a pretrial deposition that her supervisor ordered her to burn records pertaining to the girl, Kristen Tatar.

“And make sure that you sit down with a glass of wine and a box of Kleenex when you burn Kristen’s” records, Penn State Cooperative Extension worker Pam Walmsley testified in a deposition detailing her supervisor’s instructions. “And get it out of your system and move on.”

Tatar’s 11 1/2-pound body was found stuffed into the cooler that had been set on a curb for trash pickup behind her Armstrong County home in August 2003. Her parents, James Tatar and Janet Crawford, are serving life sentences for starving her to death.

Criminal investigators determined the couple grossly underfed the girl, who was often tied to a chair with a pacifier in her mouth and rarely bathed or nurtured.

The horrific details of Tatar’s life and death are scheduled to receive a second, more detailed airing in April when a federal judge in Pittsburgh hears a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the girl’s aunt, Cathy Fondrk. Fondrk, of Hyde Park, has adopted Kristen’s surviving brother and sued her parents and various child welfare agencies on behalf of the boy.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday reported that documents filed in the case reveal that Armstrong County officials admitted that they added details to Kristen’s case file after police found her body.

But Armstrong County officials are convinced that Westmoreland County officials also doctored records. Armstrong County has hired a chemist who will testify that dates and signatures on various forms don’t match, based on his analysis of the ink used.

A key issue in the case is whether Westmoreland officials should have warned Armstrong County that the girl was at “high” risk for abuse, not “moderate” or “low” as various Westmoreland records reflected.

Fondrk sued caseworkers and officials in Armstrong County, where the girl died; the Westmoreland Children’s Bureau and some of its caseworkers who supervised Kristen case before her parents moved to Armstrong County in 2001; and the Penn State Cooperative Extension, whose employees helped Westmoreland County supervise the Tatar case.

Westmoreland County officials got a judge to declare the girl dependent and in county custody due to neglect, and twice placed her in foster care in 1999 and 2000.

Generally, the Armstrong County defendants contend Westmoreland County never relinquished jurisdiction in the case, even after Kristen’s parents moved with her to Armstrong County. Westmoreland defendants have argued in court papers that they did the best they could to supervise the girl, but were not ultimately responsible for her death in another county because Armstrong County caseworkers had begun supervising the case by then.

The state Department of Welfare in 2003 found that Westmoreland caseworkers failed to monitor whether Kristen was getting adequate medical attention and that “lax supervision” and “infrequency” of caseworker visits led to the girl’s death.


Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,