The Federal Trade Commission today announced that Privo, Inc. has been approved as a “safe harbor” program under the terms of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA’s ‘safe harbor’ provision is designed to encourage increased industry self-regulation. Under this provision, industry groups and others may request Commission approval of self-regulatory guidelines to govern participants’ compliance, such that Web site operators in Commission-approved programs would first be subject to the disciplinary procedures of the safe harbor program in lieu of FTC enforcement.
In October 1999, the FTC issued the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which requires children’s Web site 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.
Privo’s safe harbor application was published in a Federal Register Notice on April 6, 2004, 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. Comments were accepted until May 7, 2004.
The Commission vote to approve the Privo safe harbor application was 5-0.
Copies of the final Privo 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 consumerto 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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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 at http://www.ftc.govhtm. 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.