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The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on a proposal to amend the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule to make permanent a temporary provision in the Rule allowing operators of Web sites and online services that collect personal information from children only for internal use to obtain verifiable parental consent via e-mail.

The Rule currently contains a “sliding scale” approach for obtaining parental consent. Operators of Web sites and online services that collect children’s personal information solely for internal use can obtain parental consent through the use of an e-mail plus an additional step to provide assurance that the person providing the consent actually is the parent. Operators that wish to disclose children’s information publicly or to third parties must employ more reliable methods of obtaining parental consent, such as using a print-and-send consent form; a credit card transaction; a toll-free telephone number staffed by trained personnel; a digital certificate using public key technology; or an e-mail with a password or PIN obtained by one of the above methods.

The Commission adopted the sliding scale approach for parental consent when it issued the Rule in 1999. At that time, the agency anticipated that more sophisticated, reliable, and cost-efficient technology for obtaining parental consent would become available soon, so the sliding scale approach was set to expire in 2002. In 2002, the Commission extended the sliding scale approach until April 21, 2005, because such technology was not yet available. At this time, the Commission believes that the expected technological progress still has not occurred, and therefore proposes that the Rule be amended to make permanent the sliding scale approach.

The FTC is seeking comments concerning whether: (1) current or anticipated reliable technology or infomediary services could facilitate obtaining verifiable parental consent at a reasonable cost; (2) eliminating, extending, or making permanent the sliding scale approach would affect the incentive to develop secure technology for the purpose of obtaining parental consent; (3) eliminating the sliding scale approach would have an effect on how Web site operators would use personal information collected from children; and (4) the sliding scale approach should be eliminated, extended, or made permanent.

Comments may be filed electronically using the Web-based form available at Written comments should refer to “Sliding Scale 2005, Project No. P054503” on both the text and the envelope, and should be sent or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room H-159 (Annex Y), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Comments containing confidential information must be filed in paper form. Comments must be received by February 14, 2005.

The Commission vote authorizing staff to publish the Federal Register notice was 5-0.

Copies of the Federal Register notice are available from the FTC’s Web site at 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 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 . 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. P054503)

Contact Information

Media Contact:

Jen Schwartzman
Office of Public Affairs

Staff Contact: