Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Dept. of Unintended Consequences: COPPA

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, 15 USC §6501 - 6506, PL 105-277)
regulations from the FTC are just going into effect.  The Internet is going to be changing, both for those under 13, and for the website/app providers who deal with them.  COPPA.org offers a website explaining in some detail how to comply with the new regulations. According to the explanation provided there, the Act applies to any
commercial Web site or an online service directed to children under 13 that collects personal information from children or if you operate a general audience Web site and have actual knowledge that you are collecting personal information from children, ...
The COPPA.org website goes on to explain the factors the FTC considers in deciding whether a website or app is directed to children, who is an "operator" and what amounts to personal information.   Then, the COPPA.org folks lay out the requirements of the Act and regulations as cleanly as possible.  This also provides the full text of the Act.

Sadly, despite the efforts to make the Act's requirements seem less overwhelming, it appears that many smaller businesses operating on the Internet or with online services that either cater to children or to a general population that attracts the under-13 crowd, will be completely changing their business model in response.  AdWeek reports that already AOL Kids has stopped working, and at least one academic consultant is recommending smaller businesses simply change their websites to avoid being covered by the Act.   Some foresee that the final result will be less innovation on the Internet.  I hope they are wrong!  I am sure that is not what the FTC or Congress intended.  But many businesses seem quite shy of the new regs.

No comments: