Children’s online privacy has once again risen to the top of the agenda for the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance (“Senate Commerce Subcommittee”). In March of this year, the Commission announced that it was expediting its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA Rule” or “Rule”) in light of technological changes that have taken place since the Rule was originally promulgated a decade ago. Rather than formally proposing specific changes to the current COPPA Rule, the Commission solicited feedback from the public on virtually all aspects of the Rule to help it determine how well the regulation is positioned to address technological advancements in media, such as mobile, interactive television, interactive gaming, and other interactive media. Following a brief extension, the Commission accepted comments through July 12, 2010. As part of the Commission’s review of the COPPA Rule, the FTC also convened a workshop on June 2, 2010. Both in its request for comments and at the COPPA Rule workshop, the Commission asked for feedback on whether any proposed recommendations would require changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”).
Congress has not yet proposed modifications to COPPA. The Senate Commerce Subcommittee, however, has convened hearings on children’s online privacy. Most recently, on July 15, 2010, Subcommittee Chairman Pryor (D-AR) held a hearing on protecting youth online. This hearing marked the Subcommittee’s second in a series on this topic this year. Whereas April’s hearing focused primarily on privacy matters, this hearing concentrated on safety issues that may arise as children navigate the online world. The Subcommittee members espoused the many offerings that the Internet provides to children, but also cautioned that such technology can put children at risk of cyber-bullying and online harassment. At the hearing, witnesses from the Commission, industry, and advocates agreed that providing protections to youth online is a priority but did not reach consensus on the best means to implement such protections.