Audio recordings now require parental consent

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Back in 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gave the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) a digital update.

COPPA requires consent from parents before personal information is gathered about children under the age of 13. In this first update, the FTC folded photo, video or audio files featuring a child’s image or voice into information previously covered under the Rule – “analog” information like a child’s name or address.

But this change raised a question – how should businesses apply the new requirements for audio recordings?

Drop the Mic

In October 2017, the FTC announced a clarification. COPPA, it noted, requires websites and other online services to secure parental consent before gathering an audio sample of a child’s voice.

However, the Commission signaled that it would not pursue action against a company that gathers an audio recording used to replace the function of written (or typed) words. For example, consider the voice search function on your phone – the recording is used once for a specific purpose so you do not have to type the words. If the company that is gathering such a recording from a child discards it shortly thereafter, such a use would not provoke action from the FTC. 

The Takeaway

There are limitations to this exception. If the information gathered on the recording is personal information that is protected under COPPA – for instance, if the service asks a child to speak his or her name, address or Social Security number – then the exception does not apply and compliance with COPPA will be required.

Audio recorded under the exception must also be used only for its original purpose – a search or a verbal instruction to a phone app, for instance – and the recording must be discarded afterward.

Finally, the exceptions do not exempt a business from providing “clear notice of its collection and use of audio files and its deletion policy in its privacy policy.”