FTC finds COPPA effective during first 5 years

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In a report to Congress released at the end of last month, the 
Federal Trade Commission said the Children's Online Privacy 
Protection Act and its COPPA rule have been effective in protecting 
the privacy and security of young children online without unduly 
burdening Web site operators.
Congress enacted COPPA in 1998 to address privacy and security risks 
created when children under 13  are online. COPPA imposes 
requirements on operators of Web sites, online services directed to 
children and other operators with knowledge that they have collected 
personal information from children. The FTC rule implementing COPPA's 
requirements became effective in April 2000.
According to "Implementing the Children's Online Privacy Protection 
Act: A Report to Congress," COPPA appears to have had a positive 
effect on Web site information practices, as children's Web sites 
have developed innovative ways to offer children interactive online 
experiences while collecting little or no personal information from 
them.
The FTC also does not recommend any changes to COPPA or to the rule 
but notes that, because widespread age verification technology is not 
available, age falsification remains a risk on general audience sites 
not intended for children's use.  The report also identifies social 
networking sites and mobile Internet access as new issues in 
children's online privacy.
According to the FTC, "there is concern that younger children are 
migrating to more general audience Web sites, such as social 
networking sites, that are not intended for their use but nonetheless 
attract their presence . . . [t]here is potential for age 
falsification on general audience Web sites, as well as liability 
under COPPA, should these sites obtain actual knowledge that they are 
collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children 
online."
The report goes on to say that the challenges for the FTC, parents 
and others, will likely increase as the means by which children 
access the Internet increasingly moves from stand-alone computers to 
mobile devices.
The report said that there remains a wide range of child-directed 
sites for children to choose from and that COPPA does not appear to 
have limited children's ability to access information online.
The FTC has brought 12 COPPA law enforcement actions, assessing more 
than $1.8 million in civil penalties for alleged violations, the 
report said.
The report to Congress also promised that the FTC would continue its 
law enforcement efforts by targeting significant violations and 
seeking more civil penalties to deter unlawful conduct.
The FTC will also continue its commitment to business education and 
education for parents and children about privacy and security risks 
and actions that consumers can take to decrease them.

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