WASHINGTON -- U.S. regulators will likely finish a long-awaited update to rules protecting children's online privacy by the end of the year, the head of the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday.

The original rules were developed when most computers were large beige boxes sitting under office desks instead of smartphones slung into backpacks and permeating most aspects of daily life.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the agency was moving forward on two issues: self-regulatory "do not track" guidance, and regulations to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

The law requires that website and online service operators obtain verifiable consent from parents before collecting information about children.

Leibowitz, who is thought keen to leave the agency within months, said he was more confident of finishing an update of COPPA's rules, which were written following the 1998 legislation.

Under revised rules, the FTC would make websites, mobile apps and data brokers all responsible for getting parental consent before collecting data about children aged 12 and younger. Currently it is unclear who has the responsibility. Data brokers buy and sell consumer data.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Conference in Washington, Leibowitz said the process would most likely be done by the end of the year.

"We are looking at all the comments that came in and weighing how to tweak the regulation," he said.


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Leibowitz was slightly less optimistic about the fate of "do not track," an effort to allow Internet users to tell companies they did not want to be tracked online.

Some large technology companies, like Microsoft and Google (GOOG), have agreed to let consumers opt out of being tracked, but advertisers have pushed back hard.

"We're still making forward progress," Leibowitz said when asked if the efforts would be done by the end of the year. "We continue to be optimistic. It's not a certainty though."