The Federal Trade Commission’s revised Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule took effect on July 1st. COPPA gives parents greater control over the online collection of their children’s personal information. The revised COPPA rule is the result of more than two years of review by the agency to modernize the rule.
The revised COPPA rule addresses new ways in which children use and access the Internet, including the use of mobile devices and social networking. The modified COPPA rule, approved by the Commission in December 2012, broadens the definition of children’s personal information to include persistent identifiers such as cookies that track a child’s activity online, as well as geolocation information, photos, videos, and audio recordings.
COPPA was mandated when Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. COPPA requires that operators of websites or online services that are either directed to children under 13 or have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information from children under 13 give notice to parents and get their verifiable consent before collecting, using, or disclosing such personal information, and keep secure the information they collect from children.
The FTC has also continued five “safe harbor” programs, whose guidelines now reflect the updated rule. Under COPPA, “safe harbor” status permits certain organizations to create comprehensive self-compliance programs for their members. Companies that participate in a COPPA safe harbor program are generally subject to the review and disciplinary procedures provided in the safe harbor’s guidelines in lieu of formal FTC investigation and law enforcement. COPPA safe harbor programs are offered by Aristotle International, Inc., the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, ESRB Privacy Online, PRIVO and TRUSTe.
The FTC has updated a guide for parents, “Protecting Your Child’s Privacy Online,” that explains what COPPA is, how it works and what parents can do to help protect their children’s privacy online.