Parents who have wanted greater control over their kids access to, and use of, the Internet will want to read the revised rule issued yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  After a 2 year review, the FTC has made final amendments to the rule it first issued after Congress passed the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of  1998” (COPPA). The FTC initiated the review because of the need to update the COPPA Rule in light of new and evolving technologies as well as the increasing use by kids of mobile devices.

Very briefly, COPPA established the requirements that have to be followed by websites and other online services that either are directed to kids under 13 years old or where the operators know that they are collecting personal information from kids who are 13 years and younger. COPPA and the COPPA Rule require that website operators and online service providers must give parents notice and get the parents verified consent before collecting, using or disclosing any personal information from kids 13 years or younger.  Once that parental consent is verified, the operators also have to make sure that the permissibly collected personal information is kept secure.

The complete list of COPPA Rule changes can be found on the FTC website (www.ftc.gov; “FTC Strengthens Kids’ Privacy, Gives Parents Greater Control Over Their Information by Amending Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule,” December 19).  Here are just a few of the changes:

  • geographic information, photos and videos have been added to the list of “personal information” that can’t be collected without parental notice and consent;
  • companies will have a “streamlined, voluntary and transparent” process for obtaining parental consent;
  •  the definition of website or online service directed to children has been expanded to includes plug-ins or ad networks where the operators have actual knowledge that they’re collecting personal information about kids 13 years and younger through a child-directed website or online service; and
  • parental consent must be obtained before a company can use tracking tools (e.g., “cookies”) to follow kids as they move between and among multiple websites and apps.

Again, these are just a few highlights from the revised COPPA Rule.  If you’re a parent, take the time to read the FTC announcement —these are important revisions for you and your kids.