16 CFR Part 312, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Project No. P104503
As a producer for an interactive COPPA compliant website for kids, from first hand experience of implementing The Act, I think it is important to bring up two things. First and most importantly, new regulations or not, the FTC must create an awareness / marketing campaign to let the general public and specifically parents know about COPPA. In our beta testing with children and their parents, 99% of the parents said they did not know what COPPA is, but it sounded good. For the nature of our website, we must receive full parental verification. We have been struggling, since most of the children under 13 who come onto our website, clearly put down their second personal email for the parent email, thinking they can approve themselves through Email Plus, like many other popular websites (i.e. club penguin, moshi monsters, etc...). Clearly, kids have learned to beat the system with Email Plus. Of course, we cannot approve these child accounts. In our case, we need full parental verification and end up loosing 90% of children signing up on our site since they never even put a real parent email down for us to contact. If they do provide a real parent email, parents seem to be offended when we ask them for personal information to verify they are truly the parent giving permission to their child to be on our site. We get questions all the time why we make them provide that information and why can't they just click a link like Club Penguin. Since there is no industry standard, some sites can use Email Plus, some no need to collect anything, others full verification, hence parents are confused, as they should be. I fully support the elimination of Email Plus for that reason alone, of creating a more standard approach to adhering to COPPA. Once we explain to parents the details of COPPA, they all seem to be fine with it, but the main issue seems to be that THE MAJORITY OF PARENTS DO NOT UNDERSTAND COPPA. They don't even realize it's a law... something mandated by the FTC. I feel a law has been created without properly letting the general public know the details about it. This is hurting industry, specifically, small companies like us. I am in support of COPPA, but I expect if we follow the rules, support from the FTC to let the general public really understand what COPPA is about is vital. There is a culture on the internet that must be changed. It's like in the 80s when wearing a seat belt became a law. Many adults resisted the law. However, with campaigns in all the schools and streets to "Buckle Up", people changed their ways. I find more parents would rather see their child u13 create a fake name and birth date to get on websites like Facebook, then take the time to verify their identity and approve and have knowledge where their child is registering personal identifiable information. Second, I want to stress the need to streamline COPPA, so there is a simple standard to go by. Parents get confused why some online properties just need a click, others need information, etc... Make COPPA easy to understand. My company had to hire a safe harbor to help us understand all the ins and outs of COPPA to truly comply with The Act. The majority of parents do not have the time, nor the patience to read through the entire law, let alone all the details of what they may be agreeing to. Keep in mind how these new updates to COPPA will be conveyed to the general public. Most importantly remember, kids are smart, tech savvy and always find ways to go around the rules. Whatever is implemented must be thought through of how kids are really going to navigate through the system. In conclusion, I think the FTC owes it to the industry, who is putting money and time into complying with COPPA, to properly market COPPA (new regulations and old that are still in affect), create an awareness campaign to reach all parents, kids and schools so they really understand the law and do it with a clear and concise message....without so many exceptions to the rules.