In September 2011, the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. (the FTC) sought public comments on proposed changes to its regulation relating to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Regulations. In response to comments during this period, the FTC proposed further modifications changes and has sought a second round of public comments, as these changes diverge significantly from those originally proposed in September 2011.
Up for comment in the second round are proposed changes to certain definitions which the FTC believes will strengthen protection in online, collection, use, or disclosure of children’s personal information. For example, the FTC plans to broaden the definition for “operator” of a website or online service directed to children such that the definition would include where personal information is "collected or maintained on behalf of" an operator. This clarifies that an operator of a child-directed site integrating third-party services (e.g., advertising networks, plug-ins, etc.), which collects personal information from visitors, would be considered an "operator" under the rule and subject to the parental consent requirements of COPPA.
The FTC is also proposing to modify the definition for “website or online service directed to children” to address “mixed audience sites” (i.e., sites that contain child-oriented content appealing to both children and adults). The proposed definition allows these sites to age-screen visitors to apply COPPA’s privacy protections only to those who self-identify as under 13 (currently, such websites must treat all users as under 13). However, sites or online services that knowingly target or attract children under 13 as their primary audience must still treat all users as being under 13.
The comment period for the second round of public comments closed at the end of September 2012. Stay tuned for the final version of the FTC’s revised rule relating to COPPA.