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FTC’s New Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a revision to the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), which became effective as of July 1, 2013. As the FTC and state attorneys become increasingly stricter with online child protection standards, this rule will mean that online activity will be monitored more closely for inappropriate material. Indeed, this new rule has expanded what inappropriate material entails. Do you have a child with access to the internet? Are you a business entity that collects user information over the internet for marketing purposes? In both cases, this new rule may apply to your activities.

What Does the New Rule Add to COPPA?

First, the new rule substantially expands the meaning of “personal information.” Prior to this revision, personal information applied to an online user’s name, physical address, email address, telephone number, and social security number. However, the revision expands this category to include significantly more information. Online contact information will now include identifiers for instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and video chat users. Additionally, online screen names will now be considered “contact information” because such information may be used to locate minors on the web. To this same effect, any online information that can help locate the physical address of a minor will constitute “personal information.” This information will include photographs, videos, and audio files that contain a child’s picture or voice. It will also include information such as an Internet Protocol address (“IP address”) or mobile device identification names, since they can help locate users as well. Indeed, any information that configures with geographic locations, such as street names and cities, will constitute “personal information.” The rule also limits the extent to which companies that gather “personal information” from minors can share this information with third parties.

How Will the FTC Enforce the New Rule?

The FTC and related federal and state agencies are ramping up online monitoring in an effort to provide increased security for minors who access the internet. Prior to the new rule taking effect, the FTC sent informative mailers to over 90 businesses that potentially collect personal information, as the new rule defines this body of information. The FTC has also made this information readily available to international businesses that are potentially implicated by these changes. The FTC is aiming to provide sufficient notice and information to affected companies, so that these companies can take the necessary steps to abide by the more stringent standards. The FTC also makes these revisions available on its website, inviting an open forum for discussion regarding these changes to COPPA. Indeed, the FTC aims to facilitate an open dialogue regarding the effectiveness of these changes, so as to continue to improve online safety for minors. Nonetheless, the FTC continues to maintain a strong stance in support of online safety for minors and minors’ personal information in a move towards providing greater online safety for all users.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we guide our clients in legal matters regarding all aspects of internet and cyberspace laws by using extensive knowledge and skills to create innovative solutions to protect your rights. You may contact us today to set up a confidential consultation.