The Clinton administration will press for stricter rules on how information can be collected from children on the World Wide Web, a senior White House official said Friday.
A presidential task force will recommend that Web site operators to obtain parental consent before taking children’s personal information, said presidential adviser Ira Magaziner.
President Clinton will present the recommendations July 1 when he releases the final report of the task force he created.
“If the industry doesn’t do it, we may have to legislate,” said Magaziner.
Industry groups have been unwilling to accept a parental consent requirement, saying it would be costly and difficult. Instead, the industry is encouraging Web site operators to tell children to check with their parents before responding.
Children’s advocates testifying at a Federal Trade Commission hearing Friday said dozens of Web sites that appeal to children attempt to elicit personal information, often by offering free product samples, a chance to enter contests and the ability to play online games.
The information is used to target advertisements at the children, and in some cases, specialists contend, the information is sold to other firms.
The Web site for the Nickelodeon cable television channel, for instance, offers users the opportunity to win “tons of prizes” by filling out a form that requests name, street address, e-mail address and gender.
Entrants also are asked whether they have pets, like to play sports and play online games.
M&M;’s candy site asks children to provide the names and e-mail addresses of friends. Colgate toothpaste promises to send youngsters an e-mail from the tooth fairy in exchange for their name, age, street address and e-mail address.