Web Sites Warned to Comply With Children's Online Privacy Law

FTC Also Works to Educate Children's Sites About Law's Privacy Protections

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission is sending e-mails to scores of Web sites directed to children to alert them that they must comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and its implementing regulations if they are collecting personally identifiable information from children under 13. The FTC enforces COPPA which went into effect April 21. COPPA requires that Web sites directed to children and general audience sites that knowingly collect personal information from children post privacy policies and obtain parental consent.

"Protecting children's privacy is a priority for the FTC," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We intend to ensure that Web sites collecting personal information from kids are complying with COPPA and that kids' information is protected, not exploited."

FTC staff recently "surfed" the Internet, checking a number of children's sites for compliance with COPPA's provisions. Roughly a quarter of the kids sites visited provided a wide variety of children's content without collecting any personal information. But of the sites that did collect kids' personally identifiable information, roughly half appeared to have substantial compliance problems. Those sites received an e-mail saying, in part,

"Although the law requires that you take certain steps to protect the privacy of children online, your site appears to collect personally identifying information from children under 13 without providing a privacy policy, without giving notice to parents, and/or without getting parental consent. We recommend that you review your web site with respect to information collection from children in light of the law's requirements. Be aware that the FTC will monitor web sites to determine whether legal action is warranted."

The FTC has launched a special Web page at www.ftc.gov/kidzprivacy to help children, parents, and site operators understand the provisions of COPPA and how the new law will affect them. Resources available on the Web site include guides for businesses and parents, and "safe surfing" tips for kids.

The FTC is undertaking a number of other educational initiatives to encourage compliance with COPPA's provisions. The agency will be conducting a public training program for Web site operators on COPPA compliance issues, at FTC headquarters on Tuesday, August 22. Presentations will focus on such areas as privacy policies and parental notices, how to obtain verifiable parental consent, and safe harbor programs under the Rule.

In addition, the FTC is also working with the Department of Education to provide schools with information about COPPA and how they can help educate students and parents about online privacy. The publication will be distributed to schools nationwide.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act became effective on April 21, 2000. Violators of COPPA are subject to FTC law enforcement action, including civil penalties of $11,000 per violation. The FTC currently has a number of nonpublic investigations underway.

Information about the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act is available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov/kidzprivacy and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; toll free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

Claudia Bourne

Farrell Office of Public Affairs

202-326-2181

Toby Levin

Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-3156

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