May 6, 2004
Donald S. Clark
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
Submitted via email: email@example.com)
Re: Privo Safe Harbor Proposal, Project No. P044506
Dear Mr. Clark:
I am writing today in response to the Federal Trade Commission's (the "Commission") notice for comment regarding the "Safe Harbor" proposal submitted by Privo, Inc. ("Privo"). Based upon my knowledge of the systems and technologies built by Privo, my review of their proposal, and my personal experience working with the executives of Privo as an advisor and consultant, I am confident that Privo offers a solution that meets or exceeds the provisions of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Therefore, I strongly urge the Commission to approve Privo as a provider of Safe Harbor programs.
In order to place my comments in an appropriate context, I wish to provide the Commission with some background about me. Since 1994, my work has focused almost exclusively on legal and policy issues surrounding the Internet and the implications for online marketing and advertising practices. I have advised an array of clients, including America Online, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Comcast, Coremetrics, Ericsson, Household HSBC, Intuit, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, and Pharmacia, on a wide range of Internet advertising, online marketing, and Web site development issues. As a result of these experiences, I have extensive knowledge of current industry practices and business considerations arising from the design and development of Internet Web sites, and other online marketing activities.
In recent years I have testified before committees of the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, the Federal Trade Commission, and the California state legislature, on issues relating to consumer privacy, electronic commerce, and online marketing best practices. I am also a co-author of the books Internet Privacy for Dummies (2002) and Fighting Spam for Dummies (2004), both from John Wiley Publishing, in which my co-authors and I educate readers regarding online marketing and advertising practices which pose risks to the privacy of their families as they make use of the Internet.
More specifically relating to children's privacy issues, from 1999 to 2001, I served as the world's first corporate Chief Privacy Officer, creating that role at the Internet advertising firm, AllAdvantage.com. During my tenure there, I was responsible for developing and managing a large-scale COPPA-compliant permissions management system for obtaining and managing parental permission for more than 50,000 children under age 13. Drawing from those experiences, I have provided advice to Privo regarding the technical and policy challenges faced by companies seeking to build large-scale COPPA compliance mechanisms.
Prior to the market availability of Privo, I advised a number of companies who struggled to create in-house COPPA-compliant child registration and parental permission management mechanisms. After determining the costs of building and maintaining such programs, all too many companies chose to sharply curtail their service offerings to young consumers, or in some cases chose to re-direct their offerings only to youth over the threshold age of 12. The later method can, unfortunately, result in youth falsifying their age, thereby removing their parents from the permission equation entirely. The cost-effective solution presented by Privo provides a permission mechanism that strengthens, rather than avoids, a relationship between parents, kids, and kids' favorite brands. Privo's solution does so in a manner that not only meets legal requirements, but is anchored in trust-based relationships, opt-in permission marketing, and parental empowerment. Approval of Privo's application will send a clear message to the business community that a fully-compliant, market-available "infomediary" solution exists.
The sine qua non of parental empowerment is the ease of managing the processes and procedures associated with protection of children's privacy and online safety. Privo provides parents with an easy-to-use mechanism for verifying themselves, setting up their child's account, and managing permissions for their child to participate on Web sites and in features that meet their approval. Privo's program includes the key elements of allowing parents to control frequency of opt-in communications (e-mail, postal mail), control of how contact data may be used, and controls that allow them to rescind permission.
By approving Privo's proposal, the Commission can further the cause of parental empowerment by endorsing a system that will set a standard for corporate transparency of operation and ease-of-use that industry will turn to for direction. Approval of Privo's application will set a high bar for the marketplace, making clear that not only must companies meet the technical requirements of the statute, but that there is value in doing so in an efficient, user-friendly, and responsible manner.
For the reasons stated above, I urge the Commission to approve Privo's application. I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of Privo's executive team, and believe strongly in the quality of the program they have created.
/s/ Ray Everett-Church, Esq.