Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced it is seeking public comment on the effectiveness of amendments made by the agency in 2013 to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (“COPPA”) Rule, and whether additional changes are needed. In connection with this initiative, the FTC will hold a public workshop on October 7, 2019.

COPPA requires certain websites and other online services that collect personal information from children under the age of thirteen to provide notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from these children.

While the FTC generally reviews its rules every ten years, FTC Chairman Joe Simons explained the reasoning behind the agency’s escalation of its review of the COPPA Rule: “In light of rapid technological changes that impact the online children’s marketplace, we must ensure COPPA remains effective. We’re committed to strong COPPA enforcement, as well as industry outreach and a COPPA business hotline to foster a high level of COPPA compliance. But we also need to regularly revisit and, if warranted, update the Rule.”

The FTC has identified certain categories of questions in which it will be seeking public comment:

  • Has the Rule affected the availability of websites or online services directed to children?
  • Does the Rule correctly articulate the factors to consider in determining whether a website or online service is directed to children, or should additional factors be considered? For example, should the Rule be amended to better address websites and online services that may not include traditionally child-oriented activities, but have large numbers of child users?
  • What are the implications for COPPA enforcement raised by technologies such as interactive television, interactive gaming, or other similar interactive media?
  • Should the Commission consider a specific exception to parental consent for the use of education technology in schools?
  • Should the Commission modify the Rule to encourage general audience platforms to identify and police child-directed content uploaded by third parties?

The FTC’s review of the COPPA Rule could have tremendous implications for social media and those operating general interest websites.