• FTC Seeks COPPA Comments
  • February 5, 2005
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • The Federal Trade Commission is soliciting comments on a proposal to make a temporary regulation under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act permanent. The rule permits Web site operators and online services to obtain e-mailed parental consent to collect personal information from children for internal use only. Comments must be received by February 14, 2005.

    COPPA rules allow Internet companies to send an e-mail to obtain parental consent, plus take one additional step to ensure that the person providing the consent is actually the parent. Getting permission to disclose the child's personal data publicly or to third parties is more stringent, and can include using a print-and-send consent form, a credit card transaction, a toll-free number, a digital certificate, or an e-mail with a password or PIN.

    The FTC adopted this "sliding-scale" approach when COPPA went into effect in 1999. The agency said that the anticipated technological progress allowing for an efficient and reliable means to obtain parental consent had not happened and therefore proposes to amend the rule to make the sliding scale approach permanent.

    The agency is seeking comments on whether: (1) current or anticipated reliable technology or infomediary services could facilitate obtaining verifiable parental consent at a reasonable cost; (2) eliminating, extending, or making permanent the sliding scale approach would affect the incentive to develop secure technology for the purpose of obtaining parental consent; (3) eliminating the sliding scale approach would have an effect on how Web site operators would use personal information collected from children; and (4) the sliding scale approach should be eliminated, extended, or made permanent.

    Significance: The FTC's sliding scale approach was a concession to operators of children-oriented Web sites concerned that the stricter parental-consent guidelines were not feasible given the continued lack of widely available, inexpensive electronic mechanisms for verifying parental consent. Those interested in filing comments can use the Web-based form available at secure.commentworks.com/ftcslidingscale/.