The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for administering the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule).   The COPPA Rule imposes privacy requirements on operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to children under the age of 13, or general audience websites and online services that knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 13.  These requirements include posting comprehensive privacy policies on their respective sites, notifying parents about their information practices and getting parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing any personal information from children under the age of 13.

The COPPA Rule also has a “safe harbor” provision whose purpose is encouraging increased industry self-regulation in the area of protecting children’s privacy online.  Using the “safe harbor” provision, industry groups and commercial website operators can ask the FTC to approve self-regulatory guidelines that implement the above-described COPPA Rule protections.

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) has submitted a proposal to the FTC  for a program to be evaluated under the “safe harbor” provision.  The FTC will be publishing a Federal Register notice very soon to seek public comment on their proposal.  The key issues on which the FTC has said it seeks public comments are whether the iKeepSafe proposed program has protections that are the same or greater than called for in the COPPA Rule; whether it has effective mechanisms for assessing website and online service operations compliance; whether the incentives for operators’ compliance with the guidelines are effective; and whether it provides adequate means for addressing and resolving consumer complaints.

The comment period will be open until April 21st.  I encourage people interested in, and concerned about, children’s online privacy to take a look at the iKeepSafe proposal and submit any comments or concerns you might have.