The Federal Trade Commission today announced that TRUSTe, an Internet privacy seal program, 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 implement the Act. This is the third safe harbor application approved by the Commission. Programs submitted by the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU), an arm of the advertising industry's self-regulatory program, and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) were previously approved as COPPA safe harbors.
"We're pleased to welcome TRUSTe as a partner in assuring children's online privacy," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The COPPA safe harbor provision demonstrates that industry-government partnerships work to protect consumers."
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.
TRUSTe'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. TRUSTe then amended its safe harbor application to address the issues raised by the public comments.
The FTC will continue to review COPPA safe harbor applications as they are received.
The Commission vote to approve the TRUSTe safe harbor application was 5-0.
Copies of the final TRUSTe safe harbor application are available on the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/index.html 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), or use the complaint form. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. P00 4504)