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On March 15, 2006, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its decision to retain its Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule) (1) in its current form. (2) This decision followed a review of the COPPA Rule in which the public was invited to comment.
The COPPA Rule implements the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) (3) and imposes requirements on operators of Web sites and online services directed to children under 13 years of age. The COPPA Rule also applies to operators of general audience Web sites who have "actual knowledge" that they are collecting personal information online from children under 13 years old. Among other things, the COPPA Rule requires operators to provide notice to parents of their sites' information practices and obtain verifiable parental consent prior to collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children. Pursuant to the COPPA Rule, the means required to obtain parental consent depends on the intended use of the collected information; the FTC adopted a sliding scale that determines the method that operators must use to obtain verifiable parental consent.
COPPA required the FTC to review the COPPA Rule within five years of its effective date. (4) The FTC commenced its review in January 2005 by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to seek comment on the sliding scale. (5) This was followed by a second NPRM in April 2005 requesting additional comments on the sliding scale and on the costs and benefits of the COPPA Rule and whether the COPPA Rule should be changed, modified, or eliminated. (6) The FTC also sought comment on COPPA-mandated issues. (7)
The FTC received 25 comments in response to the April NPRM and 91 in response to the January NPRM. Comments were submitted by trade associations, Web site operators, privacy and education organizations, COPPA safe harbor programs, and consumers. In general, the commenters favored retaining the COPPA Rule without modification and cited the rule's success in promoting children's online safety while not imposing overly burdensome costs on Web site operators. Commenters also recognized the rule's effect on the market for children's online content; with clear standards, businesses enjoy a more predictable environment. This builds confidence in the market, allows long-term …