COPPA Updates

Jun 25, 2013

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We’ve written previously about COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which went into effect in 2000 and has badly needed updating ever since. It’s finally getting that update, with the changes going into effect in July. The updates place more responsibility on the operators of websites to make sure that they are not collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 without parental consent. This is a list of the updates:

  1. Operator’s notice to parents: the notice to parents has been rearranged so the most important information is at the beginning of the notice.
  2. Obtaining parental consent: Websites must obtain parental consent to gather any personal information on children under the age of 13. The new rules allow several more ways, including:
    • Electronic scans of signed parental consent forms
    • Video conferencing
    • Use of government-issued ID
    • Alternative payment systems
  3. Stricter rules to maintain confidentiality of the child's personal information:Third-parties provided with personal information must also have strict confidentiality requirements for the information.
  4. Safe harbors: Any organizations using safe harbors must conduct audits of their members and report the results to the FTC.
  5. Definitions: The definition of “personal information” has been revised to include geolocation information, and photographs, videos and audio files that contain a child’s image or voice.  The definition of “website or online service directed to children” now includes plug-ins or ad networks with actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information through a child-directed website or service.

All of this basically means that it just got harder to legally gather information on and track children under 13 online.

Look for these changes in the coming weeks, and be sure to be wary of any sites that aren’t implementing these changes. If they’re not paying attention to these rule changes, what other rules aren’t they following?

I work for Net Nanny and all opinions are my own.