In a notice issued July 17, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking public comment on a wide range of issues related to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and implementing Rule (COPPA). The FTC has also announced a public workshop to review the COPPA Rule, to be held on October 7, 2019.

COPPA, which went into effect in 2000 and was last updated in 2013, imposes certain requirements on websites and online services that collect personal information from children under the age of 13. For example, these services must provide notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting information from a child; post a detailed privacy policy; and ensure that the information collected is adequately secured.

The FTC typically conducts reviews of its rules every 10 years, but is conducting COPPA’s 10-year review after only six years due to questions that arose regarding COPPA’s application to 1) the education tech sector; 2) voice-enabled, connected devices; and 3) general audience platforms that host third-party, child-directed content. According to the notice, “the online environment for children continues to evolve at a rapid pace, including, for example, the significant increase in education technology in the classroom and social media and platforms with third-party content appealing to children. The Commission believes these changes warrant another reexamination of the Rule at this time.”[1]

In addition to standard regulatory review questions that focus on whether the COPPA Rule should be retained, eliminated, or modified, the FTC poses specific questions on COPPA’s:

  • definitions;
  • requirement that operators post notice of their privacy practices;
  • methods of obtaining verifiable parental consent;
  • security requirements;
  • parental right to review or delete children’s information; and
  • safe harbor provisions.

These questions ask whether the 2013 revisions to the COPPA Rule have resulted in stronger protections for children and more meaningful parental control over the collection of personal information from children, and whether the revisions have had any negative consequences. In many cases, the FTC seeks specific data on costs and benefits associated with particular provisions in the COPPA Rule.

In addition to these questions, the FTC also seeks comment on:

  • whether COPPA’s exceptions to parental consent are warranted for 1) the use of education technology where the school provides consent for the collection of personal information from the child; or 2) the collection of audio files as a replacement for text, where the audio files are promptly deleted;
  • whether there are circumstances in which general audience platforms with third-party, child-directed content should be able to rebut the presumption that all users interacting with that content are children; and
  • whether COPPA should be amended to better address websites and online services that may not meet the definition of “website or online service directed to children,” but have a large number of child users.

Public comments are due 90 days after the FTC’s notice is published in the Federal Register. For more information or to submit a public comment, please contact Christopher Olsen, Lydia Parnes, or Libby Weingarten.

[1] Request for Public Comment on the Federal Trade Commission’s Implementation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, Federal Trade Commission, July 17, 2019.