The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking comments on the effectiveness of the amendments it made to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule) in 2013, to determine whether additional changes are needed due to changes in technology since the last update.

Businesses with an online presence have long been aware of the requirements necessary to comply with the COPPA Rule, which requires online service providers to follow certain requirements in connection with the collection of information from children under 13 years old, including notice and verifiable consent. Although the FTC updated the rule in 2013, further changes to COPPA requirements and potential penalties should be expected, and online providers will need to implement such changes into their privacy policies and operational structures to ensure continued compliance.

A recent Law360 article highlights some potential concerns for smaller child-directed apps and sites or smaller operators in connection with having to make changes to their services in response to updated requirements and potential penalties for noncompliance.

The FTC has long been steadfast in its message regarding the need for transparency and security with respect to the collection of data from children. This consistent message, combined with rapid advances in technology (and the use of technology by children) in the last six years, seems to be driving the FTC’s desire to update the rule.

The FTC is seeking comment on these specific questions:

  • 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 FTC consider a specific exception to parental consent for the use of educational technology in schools?
  • Should the FTC modify the rule to encourage general audience platforms to identify and police child-directed content uploaded by third parties?