Advancements in technology appear to have spurred the Federal Trade Commission to initiate a review of its rule promulgated pursuant to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (the “COPPA Rule” or “Rule”) four years ahead of schedule. Last week, the FTC published a Federal Register notice seeking comments on the Rule. Although the FTC typically reviews a rule only once every 10 years and the last COPPA Rule review ended in 2013, the Commission unanimously voted 5-0 to seek comments ahead of its next scheduled review. The Commission cited the education technology sector, voice-enabled connected devices, and general audience platforms hosting third-party, child-directed content as developments warranting reexamination of the Rule at this time.
The COPPA Rule, which first went into effect in 2000, generally requires operators of online services to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children under the age of 13. In 2013, the FTC amended the COPPA Rule to address changes in the way children use and access the internet, including through the increased use of mobile devices and social networking. Its amendments included the expansion of the definition of “personal information” to include persistent identifiers that track online activity, geolocation information, photos, videos, and audio recordings. The new review could result in similarly significant amendments.
Questions for Public Comment
In addition to standard questions about the effectiveness of the COPPA Rule and whether it should be retained, eliminated, or modified, the FTC is seeking comment on all major provisions of the Rule, including its definitions, notice and parental consent requirements, exceptions, and security requirements.
The Federal Register notice poses 29 wide-ranging questions for public comment, including:
The FTC’s questions evince awareness of technological developments since the FTC’s last review in 2013 and reflect a concern for how to apply COPPA protections when children under 13 are increasingly agile with technology and may visit websites and online services that are targeted to a general audience. The questions further evidence the Commission’s exploration of how to employ modern technological capabilities in COPPA compliance, including through up‑to-date solutions for age screening and information security. Ultimately, the FTC’s notice shows the FTC’s continued commitment to children’s privacy matters, suggesting more frequent review of the COPPA Rule if necessary to keep pace with technological advances and potentially increased activity in this sphere.
How to Submit a Comment
Comments can be submitted on or before October 23, 2019. Comments may be submitted online at https://www.regulations.gov or sent by mail to the address listed in the Federal Register notice.
The FTC will hold a public workshop on October 7, 2019, to examine the COPPA Rule.
The FTC’s press release announcing the request for public comment is available here.