FTC Issues Updated COPPA FAQs

On April 25, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission issued an updated version of its frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) document to assist online operators as they prepare for changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) that go into effect on July 1, 2013. COPPA requires commercial websites and online services that are either directed to children under 13 or have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information from children under 13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from such children.

The FAQ document, Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions, was developed by FTC Staff and describes how operators can comply with the various COPPA Rule amendments announced on December 19, 2012. The amendments, which are the first revisions to COPPA since it became effective in 2000, significantly modify or expand key definitions within the Rule, including the definitions of operator,” personal information,” and website or online service directed to children,” and update COPPA’s requirements concerning parental notice and consent, and the existing safe harbor provisions. The updated FAQs include a number of questions (and answers) that directly address how the amended Rule differs from the original Rule, including the following:

• What should I do about information I collected from children prior to the effective date that was not considered personal under the original Rule but now is considered personal information under the amended Rule?
• Other than the changes to the definition of personal information, in what ways is the new Rule different?
• Will the amended COPPA Rule prevent children from lying about their age to register for general audience sites or online services whose terms of service prohibit their participation?

FTC Staff announced the updated FAQs two days after online industry and business organizations, including the Direct Marketing Association (“DMA”) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to the FTC seeking an extension of the effective date for the COPPA Rule amendments, from July 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014. The letter cited the lack of an updated FAQs document as one key reason for requesting the extension.