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FTC Amends Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA)

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For those of you not familiar with COPPA, the FTC passed the act in 1998 and it is designed to help protect the personally identifiable information of Internet users under the age of 13 and gives parents control over the information companies collect online from their children.  COPPA specifically applies to websites targeting children, but essentially applies to any site that a child could use that collects personally identifiable information.  The FTC is concerned with children’s privacy now more than ever with the increased use of social media and smartphone apps that use features such as geolocation.

Julie Nichols, an attorney with Centre Law Group, recently wrote about RockYou, Inc.’s settlement with the FTC in which she referenced proposed changes to COPPA.  The FTC very recently released these changes which will go into effect on July 1, 2013.  These changes modify the definitions as well as the procedures and are referenced in detail on the FTC’s website.

Rules relating to parental notice and consent have been altered.  The FTC has had revised the rule to ensure that website operators notify children’s parents prior to collecting their personal information in a “timely manner”.  Obtaining parental consent has been made easier by the new rule, as the FTC stated that it will now accept “electronic scans of signed parental consent forms; video-conferencing; use of government-issued identification; and alternative payment systems”.  The FTC has also implemented a 120 day period in which operators can seek FTC approval of a particular consent method.

Rules relating to the definitions have been changed and expanded in some cases.  Some of the most obvious changes include the change to the definition of “personal information”.  This now includes images, videos, audio files, as well as geolocation information.  The definition of “operator” has also been altered and now covers a “child-directed site or service that integrates outside services, such as plug-ins or advertising networks, that collect personal information from its visitors”.

Although the changes will not go into effect until July 1, 2013, it will be important for you to make sure you are compliant with the latest changes to COPPA before that date arrives.  This is especially true for websites that are now included as “operators” that may not have had to comply with COPPA in the past.  An Internet lawyer from Centre Law Group may be able to help you become FTC compliant.

By Taylor Hume

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