This week, the Federal Trade Commission adopted final amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which is the rule implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA).  The COPPA Rule generally requires parental consent before websites and online services can collect, use or disclose personal information from children under the age of 13.  The amendments are intended to make sure that the COPPA Rule keeps up with evolving technology and the way children use the Internet, including the increased use of mobile devices and social networking websites.   

Among other things, the amendments:

  • Update the list of personal information that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent to include geolocation information, photographs, videos and audio files that contain a child’s image or voice;
  • Closed a loophole that allowed websites subject to COPPA to permit third parties to collect personal information without parental notice and consent through the use of plug-ins or advertising networks that are integrated into the covered websites; 
  • Streamline the process by which the FTC approves new methods of obtaining parental consent;
  • Require a third party to obtain parental consent if it has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information through a child-directed website or online service;
  • Subject to certain exceptions, extend the COPPA Rule to cover persistent identifiers (e.g., IP addresses and mobile device IDs) that enable the identification of users over time and across websites and online services;
  • Require websites and online service providers subject to COPPA to take steps to release children’s personal information only to companies that can keep it confidential and secure;
  • Require website operators subject to COPPA to adopt data retention and deletion procedures; and
  • Strengthen the FTC’s oversight of self-regulatory “safe harbor” programs that allow industry groups and others to obtain FTC approval of self-regulatory guidelines.

The amendments go into effect on July 1, 2013.