What is COPPA and How Does It Affect How You Promote Your Business?

By Daryl Nerl

What is COPPA and How Does It Affect How You Promote Your Business?

Small businesses beware: If you run a website, an online service or a mobile app that collects information from children under the age of 13, you could be liable for hefty fines if you don’t comply with the Children’s Online Protection Privacy Act (COPPA).

What is COPPA?

In a nutshell, COPPA forbids website operators from collecting any personal information from any child under the age of 13 without explicit parental permission.

Personal information can include things as simple as names and addresses or even more complex identifiers such as geolocation identifiers, pictures or audio files, where such files contain the child’s voice.

COPPA is the main reason why Facebook and many other popular Websites do not allow users under the age of 13.

Even seasoned website operators have found themselves on the wrong side of the law and were held liable by the Federal Trade Commission.

For example, online reviewing site Yelp agreed to pay a civil penalty of $450,000 in 2014, while mobile game developer TinyCo paid a $300,000-fine. A court could fine a violating operator as much as $40,654 per violation, according to the FTC.

Enacted by Congress in 1998, the law spells out what website operators must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek consent from a parent or guardian and what an operator must do to protect children’s privacy and safety online.

It also restricts marketing to children under the age of 13.

According to the FTC website, “The primary goal of COPPA is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online. The Rule was designed to protect children under age 13 while accounting for the dynamic nature of the Internet.

The Rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps) directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children, and operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13.”

Under new guidelines adopted by the FTC in 2013, the law also applies to third parties of “child directed sites” — such as plug-ins and advertising networks — that collect personal information from visitors.

Under the amended rules “personal information” includes the following:

  • First and last name
  • A home or other physical address including street name and name of a city or town
  • Online contact information
  • A screen or user name that functions as online contact information;
  • A telephone number
  • A Social Security number
  • A persistent identifier that can be used to recognize a user over time and across different websites or online services
  • A photograph, video, or audio file, where such file contains a child’s image or voice
  • Geo-location information sufficient to identify street name and name of a city or town
  • Information concerning the child or the parents of that child that the operator collects online from the child and combines with an identifier described above

How do you know if you need to comply with this law or what steps Go to the full article.

Source:: Small Business Trends – Marketing Tips