FTC Approves New COPPA Safe Harbor Program


By: Matt Foree
To protect the privacy of children online, Congress enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), which provides rules for operators of commercial websites and online services directed to or knowingly used by children under 13.  Specifically, the rules require those entities to provide notice and obtain permission from parents before collecting a child’s personal information.  COPPA required the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to issue and enforce regulations concerning children’s online privacy.  The FTC issued new, stricter rules under COPPA on December 19, 2012, which went into effect on July 1, 2013.
The COPPA law directs the FTC to approve certain safe harbor programs to achieve compliance with the Act.  The FTC states that COPPA’s safe harbor provision “provides flexibility and promotes efficiency in complying with the Act by encouraging industry members or groups to develop their own COPPA oversight programs.”  Furthermore, the FTC notes that website operators that participate in a 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 recently approved the kidSAFE Seal Program as a safe harbor program after determining that the program met COPPA’s criteria, including that the program provides “the same or greater protections for children” as those contained in the COPPA Rule.  To date, six safe harbor programs have been approved by the FTC.
Operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to or knowingly used by children under 13 should consider the approved safe harbor programs as a way to achieve COPPA compliance.  For additional information regarding COPPA, see our previous blog post here.