FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20580
Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule Amendment
November 30, 2001
COMMENTS OF THE PROMOTION MARKETING ASSOCIATION, INC.
The Promotion Marketing Association, Inc. ("PMA"), through its attorneys, hereby submits these comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission's Notice of ProposedRulemaking ("NPRM") addressing the extension of the period of time during which website operators may use an email message from the parent combined with additional steps (the "Email-Plus Method") to obtain verifiable consent for the collection of personal information from children for internal use by the website operator under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (the "Rule"). See 66 FR 54963 (October 31, 2001).
The PMA has been the leading non-profit association representing the promotion marketing industry since 1911. The PMA has over 700 members representing diverse aspects of the industry, including Fortune 500 consumer goods and services companies, advertising and promotion agencies, and university faculty who educate about promotional activities as part of a business curriculum. The PMA's mission is to encourage the highest standards of excellence in promotion marketing. The objectives of the PMA are to educate its members on the laws that govern promotions and to act as a resource to state legislatures, state attorneys general, and federal regulatory agencies in drafting appropriate and focused legislation and rules to combat deceptive marketing and promotion practices.
II. THE PMA STRONGLY SUPPORTS THE EMAIL-PLUS METHOD.
As a general response to the Commission's proposed amendment, the PMA strongly supports the Email-Plus Method of verifiable parental consent for situations in which personal information collected online from children under 13 will not be disclosed to third parties. By including the Email-Plus Method in the final Rule, the Commission recognized that flexibility within the Rule benefits children as well as their parents. As the PMA has noted to the Commission in its previous submissions regarding the Rule, the goal of COPPA and the Rule is to reduce the risk of harm to children from the improper disclosure of a child's information. This risk is significantly lower when the child's information will not be released to any third parties. Consequently, greater flexibility with respect to the verifiable parental consent requirement in such situations benefits children and their parents by allowing them to enter more easily into uncontroversial transactions that present little risk.
III. THE PMA REQUESTS THAT THE EMAIL-PLUS METHOD BE KEPT IN PLACE INDEFINITELY.
In response to Questions 3, 4 and 5 of the NPRM, the PMA believes that the Email-Plus Method should be kept in place indefinitely until secure electronic mechanisms and/or appropriate infomediary services become widely available to consumers and to industry at a reasonable cost. Currently, secure electronic mechanisms are not used by the vast majority of consumers in their daily lives. Moreover, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict accurately when such technologies will be both available and adopted by a significant percentage of consumers. Indeed, when the Rule was originally issued several years ago, many stakeholders in the process hoped and believed that the widespread adoption of secure technologies and/or the development of infomediaries would occur in the near future. Several years later, it has become clear that such hopes, though well-intentioned, were overly optimistic. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that our collective predictive abilities have improved.
In addition, there are currently many incentives driving industry towards the creation of secure digital verification systems at a reasonable cost. The ease and convenience of conducting many types of transactions online provides sufficient motivation to industry for the creation of such systems. While Rule-related benefits may eventually be derived from such technological developments, it does not necessarily follow that the creation of a limited extension period for the Email-Plus Method will significantly increase the pace of development. For that reason, the PMA believes that the indefinite extension of the Email-Plus Method will ultimately benefit all stakeholders.
For the foregoing reasons, the PMA respectfully requests that the Commission amend the Rule to reflect the concerns raised in these comments.
PROMOTION MARKETING ASSOCIATION, INC.
November 30, 2001