Home > Uncategorized > Hey, don’t take that! The basics of COPPA.

Hey, don’t take that! The basics of COPPA.

Marketers and online communicators need to stay apprised of potential online privacy changes proposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Why? Because updated government, policies can change the marketing and communications industry just as thoroughly as online platforms and mobile apps have.

Over the next few weeks, keep an eye on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  COPPA is an attempt to update online rules with current technology advances. Specifically, the FTC outlines changes to the legal interpretation of a few key terms in the act:

  • “Operator” could be expanded to include third parties such as advertising networks, plug-ins, downloadable software or other services that collect personal information from visitors
  • “Personal Information” in the proposed changes would be considered anything that can be used to recognize a user over time “across different sites or services, where it is used for purposes other than support for internal operations”
  • “Support for Internal Operations”  will be expanded to list specific activities such as: “site maintenance and analysis, performing network communications, use of persistent identifiers for authenticating users, maintaining user preferences, serving contextual advertisements, and protecting against fraud and theft will not be considered collection of ‘personal information’ as long as the information collected is not used or disclosed to contact a specific individual, including through the use of behaviorally-targeted advertising”
  • “Website or Online Service Directed at Children” this asks operators to address the reality that some websites that contain child-oriented content, are often appealing to a larger audience, including parents. Under the current rules, these sites must treat all visitors as if they are under 13 years of age in terms of information collection

Many marketers have expressed that these changes could greatly lessen their offerings or even prevent them from providing sites to younger audiences.  In the past, website operators were only responsible for obtaining parental consent when collecting personal information or email addresses from children under the age of 13. One example would be an email address to receive an online birthday card.  Except now sites are more interactive. On HappyMeal.com you can upload your personal photo to be in a picture or dance video with Ronald McDonald.

The New York Times published in, “U.S. Is Tightening Web Privacy Rule to Shield Young”  that it is difficult to know what information that is being collected is being shared. However, a study of 54 websites popular with children found that many used tracking technologies extensively. This included audience segmenter, Quantcast, running on Nick.com and AudienceScience and analytic company running on a Disney game page.

Even fan sites need to be careful when a segment of their users are under the age of 13. Earlier in October, Natasha Singer of the New York Times, reported that, the FTC settled a case where,The operator of fan web sites for pop stars Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Demi Lovato agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle federal charges that the sites illegally collected personal information about thousands of children.”

The industry association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, believes that the rule doesn’t need to be updated and the Digital Advertising Association is encouraging people to disable Microsoft’s “Do Not Track” function.

There are as many points of view on this subject as there are Bieber Fever fans. The stakes are high for anyone who does a vast amount of communicating with their customers online.  Although, the stakes are higher for those who don’t become and stay informed of the ever changing online market. I encourage you to read up on the issue for yourself. Think about what it means for your business and personal life. Then, think about getting creative. Changes to government regulations aren’t the end of online communications with younger demographics, just the platform for something new.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. kgillespie17
    October 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I really enjoy the Frankinweenie class exercise this past week, but couldn’t help and wonder, of all these great digital marketing ideas, would any be subject to regulation under COPPA?

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