Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

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Not to be confused with the defunct Child Online Protection Act, abbreviated "COPA".
"COPPA" redirects here. It is not to be confused with COPAA.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is a United States federal law, located at 15 U.S.C. §§ 65016506 (Pub.L. 105–277, 112 Stat. 2681-728, enacted October 21, 1998).

The act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. It details what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13. While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents' permission, many websites altogether disallow underage children from using their services due to the amount of work involved.[citation needed]

Background[edit]

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 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 website operators in Commission-approved programs would first be subject to the disciplinary procedures of the safe harbor program in lieu of FTC enforcement. As of 17 May 2013, the FTC has granted safe harbor to five companies: Aristotle, Inc., PRIVO, TRUSTe, ESRB, and CARU.[1]

In September 2011, the FTC announced proposed revisions to the COPPA rules, the first significant changes to the Act since its rules were issued in 2000. The proposed rule changes expand the definition of what it means to "collect" data from children. The new rules would also present a data retention and deletion requirement, which would mandate that data that is obtained from children is only kept for the amount of time necessary to achieve the purpose that it was collected for and also add the requirement that operators ensure that any third parties to whom a child's information is disclosed have reasonable procedures in place to protect the information.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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[5] that takes into account the manner in which the information is being collected and the uses to which the information will be put.

Violations[edit]

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.,[6] American Pop Corn Company,[7] Lisa Frank, Inc.,[8] Mrs. Field's Cookies, and Hershey Foods.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Other websites that were directed to children and shut down due to COPPA were: Kidswirl,[12] Skid-e-Kids,[13] and Imbee.[14]

Compliance[edit]

In December 2012, the Federal Trade Commission issued revisions effective July 1, 2013, which create additional parental notice and consent requirements, amended definitions and added other obligations, for organizations that (1) operate a website or online service that is “directed to children” under 13 and that collects “personal information” from users or (2) knowingly collects personal information from persons under 13 through a website or online service.[15] After July 1, 2013, operators must:[16]

  • Post a clear and comprehensive online privacy policy describing their information practices for personal information collected online from persons under age 13;
  • Make reasonable efforts (taking into account available technology) to provide direct notice to parents of the operator’s practices with regard to the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from persons under 13, including notice of any material change to such practices to which the parents has previously consented;
  • Obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, prior to any collection, use, and/or disclosure of personal information from persons under age 13;
  • Provide a reasonable means for a parent to review the personal information collected from their child and to refuse to permit its further use or maintenance;
  • Establish and maintain reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of the personal information collected from children under age 13, including by taking reasonable steps to disclose/release such personal information only to parties capable of maintaining its confidentiality and security; and
  • Retain personal information collected online from a child for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected and delete the information using reasonable measures to protect against its unauthorized access or use.
  • Operators are prohibited from conditioning a child’s participation in an online activity on the child providing more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in that activity.[17]

According to a notice issued by the Federal Trade Commission an operator has actual knowledge of a user’s age if the site or service asks for – and receives – information from the user that allows it to determine the person’s age.[18] An example cited by the FTC includes, an operator who asks for a date of birth on a site’s registration page has actual knowledge as defined by COPPA if a user responds with a year that suggests they’re under 13. Another example cited by the FTC that an operator may have actual knowledge based on answers to “age identifying” questions like “What grade are you in?” or “What type of school do you go to? (a) elementary; (b) middle; (c) high school; (d) college.”

In the changes effective July 1, 2013, the definition of an operator has been updated to make clear that COPPA 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.[19] The definition of a website or online service directed to children is expanded to include plug-ins or ad networks that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information through a child-directed website or online service. Websites and services that target children as a secondary audience may differentiate among users, and are required to provide notice and obtain parental consent only for those users who identify themselves as being younger than 13.[20] The definition of personal information requiring parental notice and consent before collection now includes “persistent identifiers” that can be used to recognize users over time and across different websites or online services. However, no parental notice and consent is required when an operator collects a persistent identifier for the sole purpose of supporting the website or online service’s internal operations.[21] The definition of personal information after July 1, 2013, also includes geolocation information, as well as photos, videos, and audio files that contain a child’s image or voice.[22]

International scope[edit]

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." Since the law is US federal, it's applicable only to websites that run:

  • by websites under US jurisdiction
  • by websites which servers are hosted in US
  • by websites which headquarters are located in the US territory.
  • by commercial websites.[23]

However, the law caused huge international impact, so that even websites which are not either under US jurisdiction, or which servers or headquarters are not located into US, started blocking children under 13,[24] even giving up parental consent.[25] Staff of these websites explain their child blocking implementation by common sense of children - that they don't have enough common sense, or they can't make their own decisions. They compare the website accounts to documents like driver's license, National ID card (or a passport) etc.

Criticisms[edit]

COPPA is highly controversial and has been criticized as ineffective and potentially unconstitutional by many people.[26] They say it attacks children's rights to freedom of speech and self-expression. Delays in obtaining parental consent often result in children moving on to other activities that are less appropriate for their age. In addition, age restrictions and the "parental consent" process is easy for children to circumvent.[27] The law has also many safety flaws - for example it does not protect kids from being advertised to,[28] it does not prevent kids from accessing pornography or lying about their age,[29] and that it is impossible to ensure totally safe environment online on the governmental level[30] and, if so, it may be similar to SOPA/PIPA. Another point is that parents or non-profit organisations (like Common Sense Media, etc.), not government, are responsible for protecting children online.

Sometimes people state that the law was made to protect children from pedophiles, however COPPA has no statements regarding Internet pedophilia. In addition, it's very hard to recognize an actual pedophile even in the physical world, and that kids actually know who was abusing them.[31][unreliable source?]

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, has expressed opposition to COPPA and stated "That will be a fight we take on at some point. My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age."[32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Safe Harbor Program". ftc. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "FTC Will Propose Broader Children's Online Privacy Safeguards". The National Law Review. Ifrah Law. 2012-12-22. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  3. ^ COPPA section 1302(2)(B)
  4. ^ "FTC v. California Dental Association, 526 U.S. 756 (1999)". 1999-05-24. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  5. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/64fr59888.pdf
  6. ^ "Girls Life, Inc". Ftc.gov. 2011-06-24. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  7. ^ "Jolly Time". Ftc.gov. 2011-06-24. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  8. ^ "Lisa Frank, Inc". Ftc.gov. 2011-06-24. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  9. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/02/hersheyfield.shtm
  10. ^ "FTC fines Xanga for violating kids' privacy - $1 million penalty against social networking site is largest under 1998 law", September 7, 2006
  11. ^ "UMG Recordings, Inc. to Pay $400,000, Bonzi Software, Inc. To Pay $75,000 to Settle COPPA Civil Penalty Charges". Ftc.gov. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  12. ^ "FTC Letter to Toby Clark, Kidswirl". 
  13. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2011/11/operator-social-networking-website-kids-settles-ftc-charges-site.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2008/01/imbeecom-settles-ftc-charges-social-networking-site-kids-violated.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Percival IV, Lynn C.; Elizabeth H. Johnson; Poyner Spruill LLP (July 1, 2013). "New Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule Now In Effect". The National Law Review. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Larose, Cynthia J.; Julia M. Siripurapu; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. (June 28, 2013). "Guide to Compliance with the Amended Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule". The National Law Review. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  17. ^ Larose, Cynthia J. "Amended Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule Compliance Deadline Approaching". Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule: Not Just for Kids' Sites". Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "FTC Strengthens Kids’ Privacy, Gives Parents Greater Control Over Their Information By Amending Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule". Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  20. ^ Percival IV, Lynn C.; Elizabeth H. Johnson; Poyner Spruill LLP (July 1, 2013). "New Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule Now In Effect". The National Law Review. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  21. ^ "FTC Strengthens Kids’ Privacy, Gives Parents Greater Control Over Their Information By Amending Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule". Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  22. ^ Larose, Cynthia J.; Julia M. Siripurapu; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. (June 28, 2013). "Guide to Compliance with the Amended Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule". The National Law Review. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  23. ^ "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". Ftc.gov. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  24. ^ "Gaijin Entertainment (Russian company located in Russia under Russian jurisdiction) terms of service includes blocking children under 13". 
  25. ^ "DeviantArt's COPPA policy". 
  26. ^ "Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy | Vol 5 | Iss 2". Law.northwestern.edu. 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  27. ^ http://www.assertid.com/coppa/parents/
  28. ^ http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=1249.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/0493-Complying-with-COPPA-Frequently-Asked-Questions.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ http://forums.school-survival.net/showthread.php?tid=28362.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ http://www.wikihow.com/Identify-a-Pedophile.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ Lev-Ram, Michal (May 20, 2011). "Zuckerberg: Kids under 13 should be allowed on Facebook". Fortune. 

External links[edit]