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FTC Requests Public Comments on COPPA Rule

Date: Jul 19, 2019

Yesterday, on July 17, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a Request for Public Comment on the effectiveness of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as implemented through the COPPA Rule.

The review of the COPPA Rule has been accelerated from the usual 10-year cycle because of rapid changes in technology, including its broad use in education. A public workshop to discuss the progress of, and potential changes to, the COPPA Rule will be held by the FTC on October 7, 2019.

The COPPA Rule went into effect in 2000 to implement COPPA. The Rule requires online services that collect personal information from children under 13 to provide notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children. To keep pace with rapid changes in technology, the last review culminated in significant amendments to the Rule released in 2013. Among those changes were an expanded definition of children's personal information, including persistent identifiers such as cookies that track a child's activity online unless used solely for internal operations, geolocation information, photos, videos, and audio recordings.

The FTC welcomes comments on all major provisions of the Rule, including definitions, notices, parental consent requirements, exceptions to verifiable parental consent, and the safe harbor provision. It asks if the rule should be retained, eliminated, or modified; whether the 2013 revisions to the Rule have been effective in protecting children and giving meaningful parental control over the collection of children's personal information; and whether the revisions to the Rule have had any negative consequences, among other things. The FTC also asks pointed questions about how to treat social media platforms and whether the definition of a child-directed service should include services that attract a large number of children.

Online service providers, makers of connected products (particularly those aimed at children), app developers, tech companies and others should review the notice and decide if they wish to attend the workshop and/or submit written comments to the FTC. Those wishing to participate in the workshop must submit their information by August 19, 2019. Written comments must be filed with the FTC 90 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register, which is expected to be soon.