FTC Proposes Additional Revisions to COPPA Rules — Comments Due September 10, 2012

By Jennifer Kashatus

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sought comment on additional revisions to its rules implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  In September 2011, the FTC sought comment on proposed revisions to the COPPA rule, including changes to the definition of personal information.  For our advisory on the FTC’s prior modifications, click here.  Having received more than 350 comments in response to its 2011 call for comments, the FTC now proposes to modify certain definitions to clarify the scope of the COPPA Rule and to strengthen COPPA protections.  The FTC has sought comment on its proposals, as they diverge from proposals made in 2011.

Among other proposals, the FTC proposes further modifications to the definitions of “personal information,” “website or online service directed to children,” and “support for internal operations.”  The FTC also proposes to modify the definition of the term “operator.”  The primary purposes of the proposals are to allocate and clarify responsibilities under COPPA when third parties such as advertising networks or plug-ins collect information from websites directed to children.  According to the FTC, its prior statements suggested that responsibility for providing notice of that information collection rested with the website owner.  The FTC, however, now believes that it would be more effective to implement Congress’s intent by holding both the website and the information collecting entity (e.g., the ad network) responsible as co-operators.  The proposed modifications have potential — and substantial implications — not only for website operators but for any entity that attempts to collect information from children online through a third-party website.

The FTC is not issuing any final rules at this time, but stated that it is still continuing to review the comments received in 2011.