The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been studying changes it thinks are needed for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA).  Under COPPA, websites that are geared to children have to get parental consent before the operators are allowed to get personal information from children 13 years and younger.  That personal information includes phone numbers or home addresses.

The FTC’s concerns stem, in part, from technology advances that are creating new challenges.  As Natasha Singer reported in the New York Times (September 27, “U.S. Is Tightening Web Privacy Rule to Shield Young”), the new technologies are enabling website operators to collect information about children’s’ online activities without their parents consenting or even being aware of their child’s online  travels.   She notes that while these data-gathering practices are legal under COPPA, they are still of concern to the FTC and others. Ms. Singer reports that the FTC’s new COPPA rules could be issued within a few weeks.

What changes are being considered?  Ms. Singer wrote that the “…proposed changes could greatly increase the need for children’s sites to obtain parental permission for some practices that are now popular–like using cookies to track users’ activities around the Web over time.”

Parents will want to learn about these changes when they’re issued. The FTC’s usual practice is to issue a press release when it releases a rule change of this significance.  The press release will then be posted on the FTC website (www.ftc.gov) which will make it easy to find and read.