American Society of Magazine Editors

Federal Trade Commission Issues Revamped Final COPPA Rules; Addresses MPA Concerns

February 25, 2013

Two and a half years after initiating a review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), in late December the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued its long-awaited final amendments to the rule.  As issued, the Commission recognized the concerns and objections MPA raised in comments submitted in September, and did not proceed with some of the proposed changes that could have led to a dramatic expansion of websites covered by COPPA.

After declining to update the rule in 2006, the Commission felt that in the face of rapid technological change, a significant revision was necessary.  Among the most important revisions with the potential to impact the magazine industry were changes to the definitions of “website or online service directed to children” and “operator.”

Directly acknowledging MPA’s concerns about the potential expansion of COPPA, the Commission noted that its proposed revised definition of “website or online services directed to children” “did not intend to expand the reach of the Rule to additional sites or services.”  In lieu of the proposed change, the Commission created an alternative compliance option for sites that are already considered as directed to children.  

The final definition of “operator” was also resolved to MPA’s satisfaction, with third-party service providers (such as ad networks or social plug-ins) that are present on child-directed sites liable for complying with COPPA only where the third-party has actual knowledge that the site is child-directed.   MPA’s comments also encouraged the FTC to retain “e-mail plus” as an acceptable consent method for “operators” collecting personal information for internal use only, and we are pleased the Commission chose to do so.

The new rule takes effect July 1, 2013.