Photograph of a baby using a laptop. Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Recently the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the New York Attorney General reached a settlement with Google and YouTube for alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). COPPA is a children’s privacy law, enforced by the FTC, that prohibits the collection of private information from children under 13 years of age without parental consent.

The law applies to operators of websites and providers of online services that: (1) are directed to children under 13 and/or (2) have knowledge that they are collecting or storing information from children under 13. The law requires that websites provide a notice regarding their information practices and obtain “verifiable parental consent” prior to collecting any private information (including browsing history for advertising purposes) regarding children under 13 years of age. The law also imposes liability on third parties such as advertisers, when they have actual knowledge that they are collecting information from users under 13 years of age.

The settlement, which included a $170 million dollar fine, as well as three other recent settlements1, serves as a good reminder to digital entrepreneurs that being found in violation of COPPA is no joke. Care should be taken to make sure that online businesses are in compliance with this easily overlooked regulation (which can subject violators to fines of up to $16,000 per violation!).

Although this law may appear draconian in nature, bad actors/cyber criminals are actively targeting kids online. Fortunately for parents, the FTC is not only enforcing this law but is also helping to educate parents on how to teach their kids to stay safe online with the information on this page: Protecting Your Child’s Privacy Online and this PDF: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. Although it’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, in our online world, keeping kids safe is everyone’s responsibility. Keeping your business in compliance with COPPA is not only good for kids, it’s also good for business.

1: Recent COPPA settlements:
(1) App Stores Remove Three Dating Apps After FTC Warns Operator about Potential COPPA Violations
(2) FTC Alleges Violated COPPA
(3) Video Social Networking App Agrees to Settle FTC Allegations That it Violated Children’s Privacy Law

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