Service Aids COPPA Compliance

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A new service helps marketers comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.


Dubbed PrivoLock, it "is like an ADP payroll system for privacy," said Denise Tayloe, president/CEO of Privo Inc., (pronounced pr-eye-vo) Springfield, VA.


Under COPPA, which took effect in April 2000, Web site operators must get verifiable parental consent (by getting a credit card, for example) before collecting information from a child younger than 13 and also explain exactly how the information will be used.


COPPA bans marketers from collecting any more information than is necessary for the child to participate in the activity. And it bans the use of personally identifiable information collected on children under 13 for anything other than the stated, original purpose unless verifiable parental consent is obtained for the new use as well.


COPPA also requires that parents have access to information collected on their children and the option to have it deleted.


"The law simply says to build a trusted relationship not just with the child but with the parent," Tayloe said.


Many marketers opt not to transact with children online because of COPPA, she said.


Seal providers such as TRUSTe are fine for providing trusted third-party verification, she said, but they don't help with the process of compliance.


The PrivoLock system lets registrants maintain control of personally identifiable information and edit it while providing companies with a legally compliant opt-in marketing database for communicating with their customers, according to Privo.


Schwab Learning, a nonprofit program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, is implementing PrivoLock on SparkTop.org, a site for children with learning disabilities. The site "offers a variety of activities, games and creative tools to help kids discover their unique way of learning and develop their strengths and self-esteem," according to organization literature.


SparkTop.org is live, but officially launches with added content in October, said Jodell Seagrave, managing director at Schwab Learning, San Mateo, CA.


Seagrave thinks children's privacy online overall would be better served if third-party providers handle compliance.


"Children's media as a whole would be much more successful in establishing privacy standards and making the Internet safe for kids if there were only a few different providers who were presenting the information always in the same way," she said. "As a person who is really interested in kids' privacy and safety, I really like the idea of making it simple for parents to understand. ... Ultimately, I think it's a customer service issue that would help the whole industry."


Privo also will let Schwab Learning avoid administrative issues associated with COPPA, Seagrave said.


"There is a real core competency [with COPPA] that you either have to develop in-house and staff against, or you can outsource it," she said.


Children who are not registered with parental permission on SparkTop.org can view most of the content, but cannot establish a "My Stuff" area, submit artwork or enter contests on the site.


"We want the parent to know that their child is coming to the site in case the parent prefers that their child not be educated about learning disabilities from us," Seagrave said.


PrivoLock can cost $5,000 to $50,000 to set up plus subscription fees, depending on complexity and customization of the job, Tayloe said.


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