21. What is the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1986” (COPPA)?
COPPA was passed to protect against the online collection of personal information of children under the age of 13 years. Enforcement of COPPA is charged to the FTC, which issues regulations for its enforcement. The rules regulate commercial websites, online services, mobile apps, etc., that collect personal information from operators of the site. More specifically, COPPA applies to any site that collects personal information and is targeted toward children under 13 years old or sites that collect information with knowledge that children under the age of 13 years are using the site. COPPA also applies to individuals or businesses that collect this type of consumer information off of the websites of others. Operators of such sites must comply with the following provisions:
• Parental Consent – Provide notice to parents of the intent to collect children’s information and obtain parental consent;
• Limited Disclosure – Prohibit the disclosure of information collected about children, except in limited circumstances;
• Parental Review – Allow parents to review (and request deletion) of the collected information;
• Parental Limitations – Allow parents to prevent further use or future collection of the child’s information;
• Confidentiality – Maintain security in the storage of information; and
• Limited Retention – Not maintain the information longer than necessary, and delete the information after it has served its intended purpose.
• Discussion: Why do you think Congress provided special privacy protections for children under 13 years of age? Do you believe the current restrictions are effective in achieving the objectives of COPPA? Why or why not? Do you think the requirements on businesses collecting information on the website are overly onerous? Why or why not?
• Practice Question: Carole started a website that allows children of all ages to play games that help them learn math. Users are required to log into the site and she records all of the information about the user and how they use the site. What standards must Carole’s website meet to avoid a violation of federal law?