FTC Tells Congress It Is Reviewing Whether Technology Changes Call for Revisions to the Agency's Rule Protecting Kids' Online Privacy

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today said that the rapid-fire pace of technological change, including an explosion in children’s use of mobile devices and interactive gaming, has led the agency to accelerate its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule) to make sure that it is still adequately protecting children’s privacy. Although the FTC reviews most of its rules every 10 years, the COPPA Rule is being reviewed only five years after its last review, in 2005.

Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998, directing the FTC to create a rule addressing the unique privacy and safety risks created when children under 13 access the Internet. The FTC’s COPPA Rule took effect in 2000. The Rule requires operators of Web sites and online services that target children under age13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect, use, or disclose personal information from children. They also must give parents the opportunity to review and delete personal information their children have provided.

Commission testimony to the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was presented by Jessica Rich, Deputy Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. The testimony states that in the past 10 years, the FTC has brought 14 law enforcement actions alleging COPPA violations and has collected more than $3.2 million in civil penalties. The testimony notes that in addition to its law enforcement efforts, the FTC also has initiated campaigns to educate businesses and parents about the Rule’s requirements.

The testimony states that, in connection with its COPPA Rule review, the FTC is currently seeking public comment on several issues, including;

  • The implications for COPPA enforcement raised by mobile communications, interactive television, interactive gaming, and other similar interactive media;
  • Whether Web site operators have the ability to contact specific individuals using information collected from children online, such as persistent IP addresses, mobile geolocation data, or information collected from children online in connection with behavioral advertising, and whether the Rule’s definition of “personal information” should be expanded accordingly;
  • Whether there are additional technologies to obtain verifiable parental consent that should be added to the COPPA Rule, and whether any of the methods currently included should be removed; and
  • Whether parents are exercising their rights under the Rule to review or delete personal information collected from their children, and what challenges operators face in authenticating parents.

The public comment period closes on June 30, 2010. On June 2, the Commission will host a public roundtable at its Washington, DC Conference Center to hear from all interested parties on whether any changes to the COPPA Rule are needed.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.

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