In light of continued rapid changes in technology, the Federal Trade Commission is seeking comment on the effectiveness of the amendments the agency made to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule) in 2013 and whether additional changes are needed.
The COPPA Rule, which first went into effect in 2000 to implement the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, requires certain websites and other online services that collect personal information from children under the age of 13 to provide notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from these children.
In a notice to be published shortly in the Federal Register, the FTC is seeking comment on a wide range of issues related to the COPPA Rule. In addition, the FTC will hold a public workshop on October 7, 2019 to examine the COPPA Rule. More details about the workshop can be found on the event page.
“In light of rapid technological changes that impact the online children’s marketplace, we must ensure COPPA remains effective,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “We’re committed to strong COPPA enforcement, as well as industry outreach and a COPPA business hotline to foster a high level of COPPA compliance. But we also need to regularly revisit and, if warranted, update the Rule.”
The amendments the FTC made to the COPPA Rule in 2013 addressed changes in the way children use and access the Internet, including the increased use of mobile devices and social networking. These include an expanded definition of children’s personal information, including persistent identifiers such as cookies that track a child’s activity online, as well as geolocation information, photos, videos, and audio recordings.
The FTC typically reviews its rules every 10 years. Rapid changes in technology, including the expanded use of education technology, reinforce the need to re-examine the COPPA Rule at this time. In addition to standard questions about the effectiveness of the COPPA Rule and whether it should be retained or modified, the FTC is seeking comment on all major provisions of the COPPA Rule, including its definitions, notice and parental consent requirements, exceptions to verifiable parental consent, and safe harbor provision. The Commission is also seeking comment on whether the 2013 revisions to the Rule have resulted in stronger protections for children and greater parental control over the collection of personal information from children, as well as whether these changes have had any negative consequences.
Specific questions on which the FTC is seeking comment include:
- Has the Rule affected the availability of websites or online services directed to children?
- Does the Rule correctly articulate the factors to consider in determining whether a website or online service is directed to children, or should additional factors be considered? For example, should the Rule be amended to better address websites and online services that may not include traditionally child-oriented activities, but have large numbers of child users?
- What are the implications for COPPA enforcement raised by technologies such as interactive television, interactive gaming, or other similar interactive media?
- Should the Commission consider a specific exception to parental consent for the use of education technology in schools?
- Should the Commission modify the Rule to encourage general audience platforms to identify and police child-directed content uploaded by third parties?
Comments on the Commission’s review of the COPPA Rule will be welcomed for 90 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. Instructions on how to submit comments will be included in the Federal Register notice.
The Commission vote to submit the notice to the Federal Register for publication was 5-0.
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