Thursday, January 07, 2010

FTC Seeks Public Comment on Children’s Online Privacy Program

This posting was written by Thomas A. Long, Editor of CCH Privacy Law in Marketing.

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposed guidelines to help website operators comply with the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, the FTC announced on January 6.

Safe Harbor Programs

The proposed guidelines were submitted to the FTC by a nonprofit organization known as iSAFE, Inc. under a provision of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act aimed at industry self-regulation (18 U.S.C. Sec. 6503). This provision allows nonprofit groups and companies to request FTC approval of proposed guidelines—known as safe harbor programs—that govern compliance with the Rule.

The Rule requires operators of websites that collect personal information from children under the age of 13 to notify parents and obtain their consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any such information.

Since the Rule took effect on April 21, 2000, four groups—the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, TRUSTe, and Privo, Inc.—have received FTC approval for their safe harbor programs.

Questions on Proposed Guidelines

The FTC is seeking public comment about the proposed iSAFE guidelines. Specifically, the FTC requests input as to:

 Whether the guidelines provide “the same or greater protections for children” as those contained in the Rule;

 Whether the mechanisms used to assess operators’ compliance are effective;

 Whether incentives for operators’ compliance with the guidelines are effective; and

 Whether the guidelines provide adequate means for resolving consumer complaints.

The comment period will last for 45 days. More information about iSAFE’s safe harbor application is available here on the FTC’s website.

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