Copin’ With COPPA

On July 1, new Federal Trade Commission rules took effect that promise to broaden the scope of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Among other changes, the new rules broaden the definition of “personal information” to include mobile device Id’s.

It appears the rules will also pull in more sites. Not only will the act apply to sites that target children, but also to sites with actual knowledge that they are collecting identifying information from children under age 13. So site operators will have to act like those guys at bars who check drivers’ licenses. Sound like fun?

It doesn’t sound like much fun to the folks in this piece. The article talks about a panel discussion in D.C. recently, where small business owners expressed concerns about compliance costs.  The FTC estimates that new operators may be looking at costs of up to $18,000 per year.  Several of the panelists said they may simply cut off access to children under 13 entirely.  That’s clearly not an option for site geared to children, but it’s an avoidance strategy for more general purpose sites.

For what it’s worth, the FTC has a “Six Step Compliance Plan” for small businesses.  And while the concept of the government helping you out may channel your inner Ronald Reagan, it might be worth taking a look. It is no doubt cheaper than a lawsuit.