Aug. 6 — For only the second time since the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule was amended over a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a self-regulatory safe harbor oversight program, the FTC announced Aug. 6.
The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) safe harbor program “will help expand the implementation of the recently amended COPPA Rule, and we look forward to working with iKeepSafe and the other safe harbor programs to provide important protections for children's online privacy,” the FTC said in its approval letter.
The FTC's final amendments to its rule implementing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act took effect in July 2013.
The COPPA Rule requires operators of websites and online services directed at children younger than 13 to post privacy policies, notify parents about their data practices and obtain parental consent prior to collecting, using or disclosing the personal information of children younger than 13.
The COPPA Rule includes a safe harbor program that encourages self-regulation by industry.
“Website operators that participate in an approved COPPA safe harbor program will, in most circumstances, be subject to the review and disciplinary procedures provided in the safe harbor's guidelines in lieu of formal FTC investigation and law enforcement,” the FTC explained in a statement announcing the approval of the iKeepSafe program.
In February, the FTC approved a safe harbor program from the kidSAFE Seal Program, the first approval under the amended COPPA Rule.
The FTC approved five safe harbor programs under the old COPPA Rule.
According to iKeepSafe's website, the Arlington, Va.-based group is a nonprofit alliance that researches digitally connected products and how they affect children.
The FTC solicited public comments on iKeepSafe's application in March.
The commission said in its approval letter that it received four comments on the application, including two expressing “strong support” for its approval.
Another comment expressed concern about the application's use of “permissive” language, and the FTC said that iKeepSafe has added mandatory language to the application.
The other comment expressed concern about iKeepSafe's credentials. In response, the FTC said that “iKeepSafe and its compliance partner, Playwell, have many years of experience in children's privacy.”
The FTC said that the iKeepSafe program otherwise met the requirements for commission approval, including similar requirements to those in the COPPA Rule, a mechanism for the assessment of safe harbor program participants' compliance and disciplinary actions for noncompliance.
The FTC's approval letter is available at http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/573811/140806ikeepsafeapp.pdf.
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