UPDATE — The Federal Trade Commission has published its promised COPPA FAQs here.
Volley #1 - Trade Associations to FTC: Please Delay!
The long-awaited amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) have been the subject of much discussion and debate. Last week, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez received letters from 19 trade organizations, including the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Application Developers Alliance, the Toy Industry Association, and the Direct Marketing Association, urging the FTC to consider a six (6) month extension of the effective date for the amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule (the “Amendments”), pushing out the effective date from July 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014.
The common concern voiced by these trade organizations in their letters to the FTC is the inability of their members to comply with the Amendments by July 1, since they claim that the Amendments significantly expand the scope of COPPA and the obligations of the covered entities. The Toy Industry Association described compliance with the Amendments by July 1 as a potentially “monumental task,” the Direct Marketing Association noted in its letter to the FTC that the “final amendments released in December 2012 contained several unanticipated material changes from previous versions” that “significantly impact the long standing business model that [companies subject to COPPA] have relied upon in planning the capabilities of their products and services since COPPA’s inception”, and the Application Developers Alliance stated in its letter that “the changes create significant new obligations for app developers and their partners that are still not well understood.” The request for extending the effective date to January 1, 2014 is based on the argument that a longer timeline for implementation will provide more time for the industry to understand the effect of the Amendments, to implement and quality-check the changes necessary to comply (both internally and with respect to third party relationships), and to overall assure widespread compliance with the Amendment.
Volley #2 — Consumer Advocacy Groups: Don’t Delay!
This week, several consumer privacy and children advocacy groups – including the Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense Media, Consumer Watchdog, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (collectively, “Advocacy Groups”) — wrote to Commissioner Ramirez to oppose the compliance delay requested by the trade associations. Noting that the FTC process of amending COPPA began in 2011 and included industry participation and input (with the Amendments being issued in December 2012) and that industry has had sufficient time to adjust their business practices and make the necessary changes for compliance, the Advocacy Groups characterized the compliance delay as unwarranted and harmful to children. The Advocacy Groups urged the FTC to remain firm on the July 1 enforcement date as a delay would “undermine the goals of both Congress and the FTC.”
No word from the FTC yet on any of these requests, however, the Commission is expected to release further guidance on compliance with the Amendments in the form of FAQs next month.