A Reminder About Children’s Online Privacy

April 13, 2013


Jake Levy

In addition to state law, COPPA governs collection of personal information.

Anyone operating social networking services, interactive websites, mobile apps and any other “website or online service” to connect with audiences must be mindful of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as well as state online privacy laws. COPPA was enacted by Congress to allow parents and guardians control over the online collection of personal information from their children under 13, such as the child’s name, address, telephone number, email address or any other information that allows the child to be contacted. (The Federal Trade Commission recently proposed to update COPPA by expanding these categories to include screen names and information gained through certain website tracking cookies.)

COPPA is not limited to websites and online services apps directed towards children under 13. General audience websites, services and apps also must comply if the operator has actual knowledge that personal information is being collected from children under 13. If the operator is obligated to comply, COPPA requires (among other things) that the operator post a privacy policy describing its information practices and obtain verifiable consent from parents or guardians before collecting personal information from their children.

The FTC in recent years has pursued violators of COPPA, including media companies, collecting penalties of $1 million in some cases.