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FTC updates COPPA rules for kid-safe websites


Today the Federal Trade Commission announced several regulatory changes that affect everyone whose audience is primarily those not yet in their teens.

These amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), which go into effect this  coming July 1, are intended to that strengthen kids’ privacy protections, give parents greater control over their family’s personal information, and to address mobile, social networking and other relatively recent developments.

One key element is that the prohibition against collecting personal information is now applicable to geolocation data and persistent identifiers, technologies used to recognize a user over time and across different websites or online services.

Many media companies spoke out in favor of persistent identifiers because they’re useful tools for site navigation and providing what the user expects from a site or service. In light of this, the FTC specifically exempts identifiers “used solely to support the internal operations of the site or service” and includes details about what it accepts as such.

The FTC also closed a loophole that newer technologies had opened. COPPA now specifies that “operators” aiming at kids are responsible for ensuring their third-party services like plug-ins and ad networks comply with the same kid-safe rules the rest of the site or service does.

The full amended document, which also expands the methods by which parental permission can be obtained, is available here [PDF].

“The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children’s online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. “I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities.”

Related links:

FTC – press release

FTC – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule: Final Rule Amendments [PDF]

Photo by Flickr user MiikaS, used under Creative Commons license