- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
The Federal Trade Commission has the authority to issue regulations and enforce COPPA. Also under the terms of COPPA, the FTC designated ‘safe harbor’ provision is designed to encourage increased industry self-regulation. Under this provision, industry groups and others may request Commission approval of self-regulatory guidelines to govern participants’ compliance, such that Web site operators in Commission-approved programs would first be subject to the disciplinary procedures of the safe harbor program in lieu of FTC enforcement. To date, the FTC has granted safe harbor to four companies: TRUSTe, ESRB, CARU and Privo.
The Act applies to websites and online services operated for commercial purposes that are either directed to children under 13 or have actual knowledge that children under 13 are providing information online. Most recognized non-profit organizations are exempt from most of the requirements of COPPA. However, the Supreme Court ruled that non-profits operated for the benefit of their members' commercial activities are subject to FTC regulation and consequently also COPPA. The type of "verifiable parental consent" that is required before collecting and using information provided by children under 13 is based upon a "sliding scale" set forth in a Federal Trade Commission regulation that takes into account the manner in which the information is being collected and the uses to which the information will be put.
The FTC has brought a number of actions against website operators for failure to comply with COPPA requirements, including actions against Girl's Life, Inc., American Pop Corn Company, Lisa Frank, Inc., and Mrs. Field's Cookies and Hershey Foods. In September 2006, the FTC levied substantial fines on several enterprises for COPPA violations. The website Xanga was fined US$1 million for COPPA violations, for repeatedly allowing children under 13 to sign up for the service without getting their parent's consent. Similarly, UMG Recordings, Inc. was fined US$400,000 for COPPA violations in connection with a Web site that promoted the then 13-year-old pop star Lil' Romeo, and hosted child-oriented games and activities, and Bonzi Software, which offered downloads of an animated figure "BonziBuddy" that provided shopping advice, jokes, and trivia was fined US$75,000 for COPPA violations.
Website operators must use reasonable procedures to ensure they are dealing with the child's parent. These procedures may include:
- obtaining a signed form from the parent via postal mail or facsimile;
- accepting and verifying a credit card number;
- taking calls from parents on a toll-free telephone number staffed by trained personnel;
- email accompanied by digital signature;
- email accompanied by a PIN or password obtained through one of the verification methods above.
Operators who follow one of these procedures acting in good faith to a request for parental access are protected from liability under federal and state law for inadvertent disclosures of a child's information to someone who purports to be a parent.
This is an American law, however, the Federal Trade Commission has made it clear that the requirements of COPPA will apply to foreign-operated web sites if such sites "are directed to children in the U.S. or knowingly collect information from children in the U.S." Other countries like Australia have made similar laws protecting children under 13 online.
- ^ COPPA section 1302(2)(B)
- ^ http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/64fr59888.pdf
- ^ Girls Life, Inc
- ^ Jolly Time
- ^ Lisa Frank, Inc
- ^ FTC Receives Largest COPPA Civil Penalties to Date in Settlements with Mrs. Fields Cookies and Hershey Foods
- ^ "FTC fines Xanga for violating kids' privacy - $1 million penalty against social networking site is largest under 1998 law", September 7, 2006
- ^ UMG Recordings, Inc. to Pay $400,000, Bonzi Software, Inc. To Pay $75,000 to Settle COPPA Civil Penalty Charges
- ^ http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.htm FTC FAQ on COPPA. See, also, the COPPA Rule’s definition of an "operator", which includes foreign websites that are involved in commerce in the United States or its territories. FTC Final Rule, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, 16 C.F.R. Part 312.
- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, via Federal Trade Commission
- 16 C.F.R. Part 312, the FTC's Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, via Government Printing Office
- How to comply with COPPA, via Federal Trade Commission
- Kidz Privacy site, via Federal Trade Commission
- FTC FAQ on COPPA compliance, via Federal Trade Commission
- Cybertelecom :: COPPA Information on COPPA regulatory developments
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.