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Home > Public Policy > Digital Media > Congress, FTC consider changes to COPPA rules

Congress, FTC consider changes to COPPA rules

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing April 29 on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to discuss whether the statute, passed in 1998, should be updated in light of changes in technology. The hearing was inspired by the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement that it will reconsider its COPPA Rule, which became effective in 2000 and has remained unchanged since then. Under COPPA, operators of websites and online services are prohibited from collecting personal information from children under 13 without first notifying parents and obtaining parental consent, among other things.

The FTC is considering, in part, a change to the COPPA Rule’s definitions of “Internet” and “personal information,” given the plethora of new technologies and online services such as social networking, mobile communications, geolocation tracking, interactive gaming, persistent Internet Protocol addresses and behavioral advertising.

The Senate hearing included testimony from the FTC, Facebook and Microsoft, an academic, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Progress & Freedom Foundation. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, opened the hearing by stating that Congress should consider amending COPPA if the FTC decides against changing its rule, which is what happened following the FTC’s 2005 review of the COPPA Rule. Rockefeller also admonished Apple and Google for declining to testify.

A major discussion point was whether COPPA’s age range should be changed from under 13 to under 17 or 18. The panel’s consensus appeared to be that it would be problematic to apply the statute’s specific requirements to teenagers, given the potential negative impact on adults’ access to online content and services. However, the panel discussed the possibility that Congress could craft some new rules that would regulate, for example, online advertising to teens.

NAA will continue to monitor this important issue.

First Published: May 12, 2010