As part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) efforts to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”), the FTC has proposed to further modify the Rule to clarify its scope and strengthen its protections for children’s personal information. These proposed revisions follow comments previously received by the FTC back in 2011. Specifically, the FTC is proposing the following additional changes to the rule:
- Clarify that an “operator” of a child-directed site or service that chooses to integrate the services of others that collect personal information from its visitors should itself be considered a covered “operator” under COPPA;
- Clarify the definition of “Personal information” to make clear that a screen or user name will be considered personal information only in those instances in which it rises to the level of online contact information and permits direct contact with a person online, functioning much like an email address or an instant messaging identifier;
- Clarify that activities such as site maintenance and analysis, performing network communications, use of persistent identifiers for authenticating users, maintaining user preferences, serving contextual advertisements, and protecting against fraud and theft will not be considered collection of “personal information” as long as the information collected is not used or disclosed to contact a specific individual, including through the use of behaviorally targeted advertising, or for any other purpose;
- Expand the definition of “website or online service directed to children” to clarify that a plug-in or ad network is covered by COPPA when it knows or has reason to know that it is collecting personal information through a child-directed website or online service; and
- Address mixed audience websites and allow such sites to age-screen all visitors in order to provide COPPA”s protections only to users under age 13. However, child-directed sites or services that knowingly target children under 13 as their primary audience or whose overall content is likely to attract children under age 13 as their primary audience must still treat all users as children.
Written comments regarding the proposed revisions must be submitted by September 10, 2012. Written comments may be sent to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex E), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Comments may also be filed electronically here.