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COPPA: What Do the Amendments Mean?

The COPPA Rule went into effect in 1998 when Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), mandates that Web sites serving children under the age of 13 protect children’s privacy, particularly in terms of their personal information (name, address, email, etc.).

Because sites may simply ban users under 13 rather than attempting the more complicated task of coming into compliance with COPPA, some believe that the Rule has had the unintended consequence of making large portions of the Web inaccessible to younger children.

Despite many criticisms centered on children’s online freedom, a set of changes to the Rule will take effect in July 2013. These changes attempt to address recent technology developments including the growing use of social networks and mobile devices.

The COPPA amendments include:

  • Adding geolocation information, photos and videos to the list of protected information;
  • Offering sites an easier and more effective approval process for obtaining parental consent;
  • Closing a loophole whereby apps and sites could allow third parties (e.g., via plug-ins) to collect personal information from children without parental consent; and
  • Better protecting data once it’s been collected.


What does this mean for schools?

To maintain COPPA compliance, a school should be careful to understand how a Web site will collect, use and disclose personal information from students before deciding whether to use that particular online technology. Among the questions that a school should ask are:

  • What types of personal information will the site collect from students, and how will the information be used?
  • Does the site use or share the information for commercial purposes (such as online advertising)?
  • Does the site enable parents to review and delete the personal information collected from their children?

See the FTC site for answers to additional school-related FAQs.

 

Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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