Final COPPA Rule Imposes New Obligations for Websites and Mobile Apps

December 20, 2012 | The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on December 19, 2012 the final amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that impose new obligations on websites and online services that may collect information from children under 13. The final amended Rule will go into effect on July 1, 2013.

A supporter of children’s privacy and guidelines that facilitate the ability to offer fun, safe online environments for children while remaining protective, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) previously submitted industry comments to the FTC on the proposed COPPA revisions. The Rule’s final amendments incorporate many of TIA’s recommendations, including:

  • Retaining the “e-mail plus” method for parental consent and permitting electronic signatures;
  • Replacing the “100% deletion standard” under the definition of collects or collection with a “reasonable measures” standard to allow filtered chat;
  • Ensuring that intellectual property protections, payment and delivery functions, spam protections, optimization and other activities are covered under “support for the internal operations for the website”;
  • Eliminating a proposed requirement that links to a privacy policy should appear in any location where mobile apps can be purchased or downloaded.

Other details from the new Rule include:

  • Modifications to the definition of “personal information”;
  • Companies must seek approval for additional activities that might constitute “support for internal operations”;
  • A loophole was closed that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent;
  • Operators and online service providers must take reasonable steps to release children’s personal information only to companies that are capable of keeping it secure and confidential.

In early 2013, TIA will provide members with additional resources related to the new COPPA Rule that will educate toy companies on implementation requirements. TIA has also recently published a Checklist for Mobile Apps and Promotions for toy companies to examine and evaluate the risks and opportunities related to their app initiatives.

Questions on this topic may be directed to Rachel Hedge, TIA director of federal government affairs.