Submission Number: 00356
Received: 12/23/2011 3:33:07 PM
Commenter: Rebecca Newton
Organization: Mind Candy Inc.
State: North Carolina
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: 16 CFR Part 312; Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Review; Project No. P104503
Attachments: No Attachments
The FTC has gone to extraordinary lengths to obtain advice, opinions, first hand experience and knowledge as preparation for the COPPA review. The amount of time and effort and knowledge gathering does not go unnoticed and is much appreciated by industry. Many, many thanks for the hard work during the review period through the past few years.
Many of my colleagues have said most of what I have to say.
As an industry front liner, my primary concerns are as follows:
•The Math. The cost of the proposed changes to industry & website operators will very likely make it impossible for online interactive content providers to do business without charging unusually high prices to parents (consumers).
One of the proposed methods for Verifiable Parental Consent (VPC) is video conferencing. Until technology reaches a much more advanced state, this method will not scale for any Website Operator who runs a viable online business. At the higher end of a more successful site, with 50-100K registrations per day, the video conferencing method would be impossible.
A small site operator could not afford to a crew to sit on Video conferencing systems hoping to verify even a few thousand registrants per day. And I don’t think many parents would be willing participants.
The drop-off rate of activations (completed registrations) would be at least 50% and likely higher. The domino affect from the drop-off rate would severely impact small and large business alike. A typical successful online kids’ site could conservatively spend and lose 12 million dollars a year in implementing the proposed VPC. Between lost revenue from additional drop-offs in activation and the cost of hiring staff to deal with the required VPC, the online kids’ entertainment business would be a dubious business venture.
I realize the hope is that by eliminating the e-mail plus system, which was never meant to be permanent but has worked well enough for many years, third party vendors will step up and create a parent-friendly system. There has been much discussion about various VPC methods for years on the subject. The problem is, we’re not there yet. Forcing current businesses to spend millions to comply or to go out of business while someone figures out how best to create an online VPC “easy button” is not the answer. Let’s have a system in place and then reconsider eliminating e-mail plus.
• Does the Government Belong in Our Living Rooms? The reality is that kids under 13 do go online with and without parental knowledge just as they go places offline with and without parental knowledge. What role, if any, should the government play in parenting or policing under 13s behavior and whereabouts. Unless we reach a time where we are microchipping and monitoring humans, the responsibility of an under 13 should be with the parent(s) or guardian and not with government regulation.
It’s nearly impossible to regulate who anyone is online – and it’s questionable as to whether it should be possible. As mentioned earlier, the proposed VPC methods, such as sending a scanned signature via PDF, is no more reliable than e-mail plus. The Video conferencing method doesn’t scale beyond maybe 400 registrations a day. No site can financially survive with 400 registrations a day so this method is a moot point. There is no fool-proof, effective VPC system in place, tested and used at this point. Until such time, let’s leave the parenting to parents and guardians. The bottom line is that behavior and studies tell us parents and guardians don’t want the government telling them what they can or can’t do online, including how and where they let their children spend time online.
We now have advanced technology that monitors and prioritizes web content in nanoseconds. Professional moderation, software and user education is so much more effective than gate-keeping.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to comment,
Rebecca Newton, Mind Candy Inc.