WASHINGTON D.C. — The Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF), Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed joint comments with the Federal Trade Commission on the FTC's Implementation Review of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). Their central message? Don't turn COPPA into a sweeping age verification mandate for the Internet.
The law and implementing rules require verifiable parental consent for kids under 13 to use most interactive sites and services if a site is "directed to" pre-teens. It also requires such consent if a site has "actual knowledge" it might be collecting a child's personal information or allowing him/her to share that information via the site. Five states have proposed laws that would expand COPPA to cover teens. And, the FTC and Congress have asked whether it's time to expand the statute.
The three organizations caution against any such changes. In their view, COPPA's device- and technology- neutral approach to empower parents' oversight of their kids' online use allows the FTC to flexibly apply the statute in a changing landscape without further rule or legislative changes. Importantly, changing COPPA's narrow age scope, or its "directed to," and "actual knowledge" concepts would require age verification of large numbers of adults on sites used by both adults and teens. This would unconstitutionally restrict the speech rights of adults, minors, and site operators, while actually reducing online privacy without improving the online safety of children.
Instead, the three groups call on the FTC: (i) to use the breadth and flexibility already given to it by Congress in the COPPA statute to adapt enforcement to the rapidly changing technical landscape; and (ii) to supplement enforcement with increased educational efforts and promotion of parental empowerment solutions.
The filing may be viewed here. For more information, please contact Mike Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. PFF is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.
The Center for Democracy and Technology is a non-profit public interest organization working to keep the Internet open, innovative, and free. As a civil liberties group with expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT works to enhance free expression and privacy in communications technologies by finding practical and innovative solutions to public policy challenges while protecting civil liberties. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.
From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people's radar ? and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.