COPPARuleReview logo FTC adds new amendments to COPPA

A recent action made by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission shows the agency giving young children greater protection over the information that third parties may accumulate.  The changes will go into effect July 1, 2013.

In regards to the Internet, the FTC has adopted their final amendment to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  These new amendments will protect children’s privacy and particularly those less than 13 years of age.  The aim of the amendments is directly targeted to third parties and what information they can obtain on children through numerous Internet downloaded children’s apps used on smartphones and other mobile devices.  The amendments also help parents by giving them easier to understand controls on what the third party can and cannot do in regards to private information.

In 2010 the FTC conducted a review of COPPA to make sure it was in par with the current technology at the time.  Amendments were made to COPPA such as closing any loopholes on information collection, and insistence that site operators adopt reasonable practices for data retention and deletion, among other things.

Earlier in the month the FTC released a report where they went over hundreds of apps targeted to children.  The report stated that the vast majority of the apps found in the Google Play and Apple App Store were transmitting private information to app developers or third parties to help them build profiles on the child.  FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz stated that the FTC was concerned that the ‘gatekeepers’ needed to do a better job at monitoring what they allow.  Leibowitz added that the apps were retrieving  “an alarming amount of information”.

On December 19th, 2012, FTC Chairman Leibowitz unveiled the new amendment changes and guidelines in a public statement.  "The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children's online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape,” said Leibowitz. “I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children's online activities.”

The new amendments have changed many definitions from the 2010 review, and the amendments clarify many of the mandates.  For example, when defining the term usage of 'Operator”, it has been updated to make clear that the rule applies to services that integrate outside services that collect information. "This definition does not extend liability to platforms, such as Google Play or the App Store, when such platforms merely offer the public access to child-directed apps," the FTC writes.

The definition of confidentiality and security requirements has been amended as well and reads, “The amended Final Rule requires operators to take reasonable steps to make sure that children’s personal information is released only to service providers and third parties that are capable of maintaining the confidentiality, security, and integrity of such information, and who assure that they will do so.  The Rule also requires operators to retain children’s personal information for only as long as is reasonably necessary, and to protect against unauthorized access or use while the information is being disposed of.”

The FTC website stated that the Commission vote to issue the amended Final Rule was 3-1-1, with Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch abstaining.  Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen voted no and issued a dissenting statement on the grounds that she believed a core provision of the amendments exceeds the scope of the authority granted by Congress in COPPA.  She stated that, regardless of policy justifications, she cannot support extending COPPA’s statutory definition of “operator” to impose obligations on websites or online services that do not collect personal information from children or have access to or control of such information collected by a third-party.

The site further states that final amended rule will be published in a notice in the Federal Register, and will go into effect on July 1, 2013.

To read more on the changes made, you can read Chairman Leibowitz's statment in full by clicking here.