FTC Amends COPPA Rule and Previews Future Enforcement Policies

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On December 19, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") adopted the first amendments to the Rule promulgated under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (hereinafter, "COPPA" for the Act, and "COPPA Rule" for the Rule) since the COPPA Rule's issuance in 1999. COPPA seeks to protect children under the age of thirteen in their use of the Internet by regulating how websites collect, use, and disclose children's personal information. Under the COPPA Rule, before a website "operator" may collect a child's personal information, it must notify the child's parent of its data collection practices and obtain parental consent to collect the information. The COPPA Rule has always applied to operators of websites directed to children and to "general audience" websites if the operator has actual knowledge that the website is collecting children's personal information.

The COPPA Rule had become outdated given the rapid development of technology and was failing to address certain waysin which personal information is collected online. In announcing the amendments, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recognizedthis fact and explained that the COPPA Rule will now reach a wider swath of media and technology companies and will govern the collection of more types of information, including photo, video, and audio files, geolocation information, and persistent identifiers (such as IP addresses or mobile device serial numbers).

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