On January 6, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced that it is seeking public comment on proposed guidelines submitted by the non-profit iSAFE, Inc. that are designed to foster compliance with the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (the “Rule”).

 

The Rule was issued by the FTC in 1999 pursuant to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). Generally, the Rule requires operators of web sites that are directed at children under the age of thirteen and that collect personal information from those children, as well as general audience web site operators who knowingly collect such information from children under the age of thirteen, to “notify parents and obtain their consent before collecting, using or disclosing any such information.”

 

Pursuant to the Rule’s 'safe harbor’ provision, industry groups, like iSAFE, Inc., may request FTC approval of self-regulatory guidelines to govern participants’ compliance with the Rule. This provision encourages industry self-regulation by allowing for disciplinary action to first be taken under an approved safe-harbor program before any FTC enforcement action is taken. In considering an legal action, then, the FTC will take into account the participant web site operator’s response to the safe harbor program’s disciplinary procedures.

 

The iSAFE proposed guidelines establish a safe harbor program that would require participants to enter into a contract binding them to compliance with the FTC-approved version of the proposed iSAFE guidelines, as well as other elements of the iSAFE safe harbor program described in the proposed guidelines. The full text of the iSAFE, Inc. guidelines are available at: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/01/100106isafeguideline.pdf

 

Specifically the FTC has asked:

What is the impact of the provisions and what alternatives are available (including the costs and benefits of each)?
Do the provisions contain “the same or greater protection for children” as those contained in Sections 312.2-312.8 of the Rule?
Are the mechanisms used to assess web site operators’ compliance with the guidelines effective (including any suggested modifications and an analysis of the costs and benefits of those suggested modifications)?
Are the incentives for compliance with the guidelines effective (including any suggested modifications and an analysis of the costs and benefits of those suggested modifications)?
Do the guidelines provide adequate means for resolving consumer complaints (including any suggested modifications and an analysis of the costs and benefits of those suggested modifications)?


Any comments must be received on or before March 1, 2010. For more details, please visit http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/isafe.shtm