FTC finds COPPA effective during first 5 years
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
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
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
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
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.