• FTC and FCC Seek Public Comments on Online Privacy
  • February 12, 2010
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission are both seeking public comment on issues relating to online privacy.

    The FTC has requested public comment on proposed guidelines for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule submitted by iSAFE, a nonprofit organization.

    The Rule applies to operators of Web sites directed at children under 13 years old that collect personal information about users as well as other Web sites that knowingly collect personal information from those under age 13. Under the Rule, the operators are required to notify parents and obtain consent prior to collecting, using, or disclosing any information.

    The Rule contains a provision that allows nonprofit groups and companies to seek FTC approval of proposed guidelines as a form of self-regulation. If the FTC approves the guidelines, they operate as a safe harbor for the organization.

    iSAFE is not the first organization to submit guidelines seeking approval since the Rule went into effect in 2000; four other groups, including the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, have received approval from the FTC for their guidelines.

    Specifically, the FTC requested comment on the impact of the provisions, their costs and benefits, and any alternatives iSAFE should consider. It also asked for comment on whether the proposed guidelines provide “the same or greater protections for children” as those in the Rule.

    The public comment period will last until March 1.

    Meanwhile, the FCC has also requested public input related to privacy protections.

    In the process of developing a plan for national broadband, the FCC received a Notice of Inquiry from the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group. The letter contained significant questions about “the use of personal information and privacy in an online, broadband world.”

    The FCC has asked for public comment on the issues and questions raised in the inquiry, such as consumer expectations of privacy and the design of systems to control the flow of personal information.

    In addition, the FCC seeks comment on the creation and use of transactional data, noting that broadband applications create sets of data about transactions - such as location information or health data - that can lead to the discovery of actions by individuals in public or in their homes.

    Why it matters: Privacy is a central issue for regulators, and companies should be prepared for updated direction from them in the coming year with respect to online privacy regulations.