FTC Proposes First Modifications to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rules Since Original Adoption in 2000

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a rulemaking notice proposing to update its rules implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to reflect changes in technology and online practices, primarily, the popularity of social networking and the use of smartphones to access the Internet and provide location information. COPPA is intended to provide notice to parents and secure verifiable parental consent prior to the collection of personal information from children under the age of 13. As part of this rulemaking, the FTC considered broadening the scope of COPPA to include teenagers, but ultimately decided to retain its applicability to children under the age of 13 only.

The rule modifications proposed by the FTC cover five different areas: 1) definitions, including what children’s “personal information” the rule covers, and what it means to “collect” it; 2) parental notice; 3) new parental consent mechanisms; 4) confidentiality and security requirements; and 5) “safe harbor” determinations for how self-regulatory programs can be deemed “in compliance” with COPPA. The primary proposals in each of these areas are summarized below. Comments on any of the proposals summarized above must be submitted to the FTC online or via hard copy by Nov. 28, 2011.

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