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Monday, August 6, 2012
by Katie Johnson
The Federal Trade Commission Aug. 1
proposed additional modifications to the Children's Online Privacy
Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, which were formally published Aug. 6, in a move that would clarify that
plug-ins and advertising networks that collect personal information
from children through another's site or service are covered by the
The COPPA Rule requires an "operator
of a website or online service directed to children" to give notice
to parents and obtain parental consent prior to collecting, using,
or disclosing the personal information of children under 13 years
But what exactly is a "website or
online service directed to children"? For instance, would a
plug-in that offers social networking features through mobile
applications, but does not knowingly collect information from
children, fall under the rule? The rule as currently drafted
The FTC staff admitted as much in a
recent closing letter to online social gaming network OpenFeint
Inc. The company operated a mobile app plug-in that enabled
users to engage with its social networking features. Although the
staff concluded that OpenFeint may constitute a covered operator
under the COPPA Rule, they declined to pursue an enforcement action
against the company.
"The staff recognizes, however, that
the Rule's current definition of website or online service directed
to children may be ambiguous as to an operator in OpenFeint's
position," the letter said. "The staff also recognizes the many
policy implications regarding the potential responsibility of
software 'plug-ins' under COPPA . . . ."
Based on the comments the FTC
received since it proposed to
amend the COPPA Rule in September 2011, the commission has now
proposed to modify the definition of "website or online service
directed to children" to clarify that a plug-in or ad network that
"knows or has reason to know" that it is collecting children's
personal information through another's website is "directed to
The FTC also sought to tweak other
COPPA Rule definitions in its recent proposal, including the
definitions of "operator" and "personal information."
Along with the other changes the
commission proposed in September–the first the FTC has sought since
the rule took effect in 2000–the FTC is attempting to keep pace
with rapid changes in online and mobile technologies. The agency's
first review of the rule in 2005 yielded no changes.
Copyright 2012, The Bureau of
National Affairs, Inc.
to post a comment.
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