ChildTracker.Net: Many Sites Don't Comply with COPPA Privacy Rules

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A study conducted by ChildTracker.net, Westport, CT, found that one month after the Child Online Privacy Protection Act went into effect, 93 percent of 327 child-oriented Web sites were out of compliance with the new regulation.


ChildTracker.net sells a program enabling Internet sites that collect information from children to request and receive parental permission to do so.


Effective April 21, COPPA says all Web sites collecting personal information from children under 13 must have parental consent. The FTC and watchdog organizations will be monitoring for compliance, and impose $10,000 civil penalties for each violation.


According to the survey, which was conducted from May 17 through May 22 via Web site visits and follow up phone calls to Webmasters and executives, the reasons for not complying ranged from companies saying COPPA "does not affect us" to "none of our visitors are children."


The survey found that while some sites stopped providing services to children in order to be compliant, others have simply ignored the new regulations or tried to get around them. Examples included:


* Many Toy, Beanie Baby and Pokemon sites claimed their visitors are adults, not children, so they do not need to comply;


* Fan clubs, pen pal, and magazines sites with audiences of children under 13 had fine print on their registration forms that said, "By registering at this site you are agreeing that you are over 13."


* A comic book site had a registration page with a check box that said "If you are under 13 get your parent or guardian's permission then check this box."


* Non-profit sites, including Christian outreach and bulletin boards solely targeted to kids, claimed they do not need to comply because there is a loophole for them in COPPA.
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