The Federal Trade Commission today announced that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has been approved as a "safe harbor" program under the terms of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Safe harbor programs are industry self-regulatory guidelines that, if adhered to, are deemed to comply with the Act. This is the second safe harbor application approved by the Commission. The Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU) was the first COPPA safe harbor program approved.
"The COPPA safe harbor provision is an example of the benefits that emerge from successful industry-government partnerships," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We welcome ESRB as a partner in protecting children's online privacy."
In October 1999, the FTC issued the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule, which requires children's website operators to post comprehensive privacy policies on their sites, notify parents about their information practices, and obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under the age of 13. The Rule, which went into effect on April 21, 2000, was issued to implement the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1998. The Act also directed the Commission to review and approve guidelines that would serve as safe harbors.
ESRB's safe harbor application was published in a Federal Register Notice and the FTC sought public comment about whether the proposed guidelines provided "the same or greater protections for children" as those contained in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule; whether the mechanisms used to independently assess operators' compliance with the guidelines would be effective; and whether incentives for operators' compliance with the guidelines would be effective. ESRB then amended its safe harbor application to address the issues raised by the public comments.
The FTC continues to receive and review COPPA safe harbor applications.
The Commission vote to approve the ESRB's safe harbor application was 5-0.
Copies of the safe harbor application are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Farrell Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. P00 4504)