The COPPA Law Explained | RM Warner Law

Before the Internet came into full swing, parents were mostly concerned with what channels their kids were watching on T.V., what books they were reading and what the ratings were on the games they were playing. Now, thanks to the Internet, parents have an entire world wide web to be concerned with. To aide in this task, COPPA laws were introduced to protect the Internet’s younger users from sexual predators and unethical marketers online.

What is COPPA Law?

COPPA stands for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It was passed by U.S. Congress in 1998 to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13. COPPA requires parental consent before children can make online purchases as well as before ISPs can collect children’s personal information. In 2013, COPPA was revised so that it also applies to app developers and ad network entrepreneurs instead of just website operators.

Who does COPPA apply to?

COPPA Law applies to operators of commercial websites, online services, and mobile apps directed to children under 13 that collect, use or disclose personal information from children. Obvious examples of those who must comply with COPPA are educational websites like pbs.com and nickjr.com, but what some may not be aware of is that COPPA also applies to general websites.

Below is a full list of the type of platforms that COPPA applies to:

  • Commercial websites or apps directed at children under 13 that collects personal information. This now includes YouTube videos too. So if you are marketing videos or other online content to children on social media, you should review the COPPA requirements carefully.
  • Commercial websites or apps directed at children under 13 that allows third parties to collect personal data.
  • Commercial websites directed to a general audience that has actual knowledge that children under 13 are using the platform.
  • An ad-network or plugin that has actual knowledge of collecting personal information from users of websites “directed to children under 13”, including the following information:
  • Mobile apps
  • Internet-enabled gaming platforms
  • Plugins
  • Ad networks
  • Geo-location services
  • VoIP services

What does the FTC mean by websites “directed to children under 13”?

The FTC doesn’t get very specific with their vague “directed to children” provision, but they did outline what factors are considered when examining a COPPA-related case:

  • Subject matter
  • Visual and audio content
  • Use of animated character
  • Use of child-oriented activities and incentives
  • Age of models
  • Presence of child celebrities or celebrities/public figures who appeal to kids
  • Ad services directed towards children
  • “And other reliable evidence about the age of the actual intended audience”