To help Web site operators, mobile app developers, plug-ins, and advertising networks prepare for the forthcoming changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, the Federal Trade Commission has released an FAQ guide.
The new Rule is set to take effect July 1.
Finalized amendments to the COPPA Rule were issued in December 2012 in an attempt to keep up with current technology, particularly in light of the rise of social media and mobile devices. The final amended Rule broadened several definitions, including “personal information” and “operator,” as well as updated the requirements for notice, parental consent, confidentiality, security and data retention and deletion.
“Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions” includes answers to general questions like “What is personal information?” as well as those specific to the upcoming changes, including “What should I do about information I collected from children prior to the effective date that was not considered personal under the original Rule but now is considered personal information under the amended Rule?” The answer: it depends.
Photos need not be destroyed, but companies should stop using the images or obtain parental consent to do so. Children’s screen names and information stored in cookies may be retained but cannot be associated with new data absent parental consent. Geolocation data, however, cannot be used unless the company obtains retroactive parental consent, and going forward “operators are required to obtain parental consent prior to collection [of] geolocation information,” the FAQs explain.
Other tips from the agency: although persistent cookies may be used to personalize content (like remembering “game scores, or character choices in virtual worlds,” the FTC said), they may not be used to knowingly send behaviorally targeted advertising to children. Privacy policies should also be examined to comply with the Rule changes (informing users if any data collected is performed by third parties, for example) and links to the policy should be “clear and prominent,” not hidden among several other links or buried in small print at the bottom of a page.
To read the FTC’s FAQs, click here.
Why it matters: Advertisers should note that the guidance, while helpful, is not officially binding on the Commission. Given the short time frame between the issuance of the FAQs and the beginning of enforcement of the new Rule – approximately 10 weeks – groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Motion Picture Association of America had requested that the FTC push back the effective date from July 1 to January 1, 2014. However, earlier this week, the FTC voted unanimously in favor of retaining the July 1 implementation date.