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December 28, 2012

FTC Amends Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule go Keep Up with Growing Web Spaces

The technological landscape is fast evolving, necessitating new rules to ensure that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities, while children keep on accessing rich and engaging content online.

In view of this, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) has introduced amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPRA).

The COPPA Rule was first introduced in 1998, and requires that operators of websites or online services – either directed to children under 13 or have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information from children under 13 – give notice to parents and receive their verifiable consent before collecting, using or disclosing such personal information, and secure the information they collect from adolescent Web users. 

It also prohibits them from conditioning children’s participation in activities on the collection of more personal information than is reasonably necessary for them to participate. 

The Rule contains a “safe harbor” provision that allows industry groups or others to seek FTC approval of self-regulatory guidelines.

The evolving technology changed the way children use and access the Internet, including the increased use of mobile devices and social networking. The FTC initiated a review in 2010 to ensure that the COPPA Rule keeps up with these technological trends, all the while strengthening kids’ privacy protections.

The new rules, incorporating the consideration of a public roundtable and several rounds of public comments sought by the agency, are expected to give concerned parents greater control over the personal information that websites and online services may collect from children under 13.

“The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children’s online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape. I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz (News - Alert) noted in a statement.

The amendments to COPRA tend to modify the list of “personal information” that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent, clarifying that this category includes geolocation information, photographs and videos.

In its amended version, COPRA rules offer companies a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent.

The amendments are expected to close a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent.

New COPRA rules strengthen data security protections by requiring that covered website operators and online service providers take reasonable steps to release children’s personal information only to companies capable of keeping it secure and confidential.

They also require that covered website operators adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion and strengthen the FTC’s oversight of self-regulatory safe harbor programs.

The FTC has also escalated its campaign against illegal, unwanted robocalls, by pulling the plug on five companies based in Arizona and Florida that were allegedly responsible for millions of illegal pre-recorded calls from "Rachel" and others from "Cardholder Services."

State partners in Arizona, Arkansas and Florida took legal action against similar companies as well.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker

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