FTC Announces Significant Update of COPPA Rule

After a number of rounds of public comment and workshops, the FTC has released its revised regulations under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 ("COPPA"). The new regulations, to take effect on July 1, 2013, take into account changes in both technology and business since the original statute and regulations were enacted. According to the FTC's release, the revised COPPA regulations:

  • modify the list of "personal information" that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent, clarifying that this category includes geolocation information, photographs, and videos;
  • offer companies a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent;
  • close a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent;
  • extend coverage in some of those cases so that the third parties doing the additional collection also have to comply with COPPA;
  • extend the COPPA Rule to cover persistent identifiers that can recognize users over time and across different websites or online services, such as IP addresses and mobile device IDs;
  • strengthen data security protections by requiring that covered website operators and online service providers take reasonable steps to release children's personal information only to companies that are capable of keeping it secure and confidential;
  • require that covered website operators adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion; and
  • strengthen the FTC's oversight of self-regulatory safe harbor programs.

In his public statement describing the new Rule, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz described the FTC's intentions with its revisions:

Just like you, we want a Rule that will protect innovation, and we think we have crafted one. Just like you, we want a Rule that will foster safe and vibrant spaces for children that are beneficial for learning and growth without creating a sanitized version of the Internet for older kids and adults, and we think we have struck that balance. Just like you, we want a Rule that will support diverse and free services online, and we think we are offering one today.

And, 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. 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, effective, and straightforward: until and unless you get parental consent, you may not track children to build massive profiles for behavioral advertising purposes. Period.

The FTC has prepared a list of "Five Need-to-Know Changes" to the COPPA Rule for businesses. The full text of the new Rule, to be published in the Federal Register, may be downloaded from this link. Finally, for some historical perspective, the following (courtesy of C-SPAN) is the original floor speech by Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada introducing COPPA on July 17, 1998:

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