COPPA Workshop Explores Rule Changes

Advertising Law

As part of its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public workshop to discuss possible updates.

Earlier this year, the agency announced plans to conduct a regulatory review of the COPPA Rule, which was last amended in 2013. Although the FTC usually reconsiders rules after a 10-year period, the agency expressed concern that changing technology has triggered a more urgent need for re-examination of the Rule.

To help generate feedback on possible Rule changes, the FTC held a public workshop, where participants—including commissioners—presented a variety of perspectives.

For example, Commissioner Christine Wilson shared her struggles as a parent trying to keep an eye on the games, apps and toys used by her children, while Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips struck a cautionary note that increasing oversight via Rule updates might have a chilling effect on creativity and innovation.

“Just because we are talking about privacy—or kids—more regulation is not necessarily better, including for kids,” he told attendees.

During the four panel presentations, members of the industry discussed their desire for consistency across various regulatory standards, from the COPPA Rule to the General Data Protection Regulation to the California Consumer Privacy Act, as each of the laws imposes different legal obligations that begin at different ages. They also called for greater clarity, highlighting uncertainty in the test for whether a product or service is child-directed.

On the other end of the spectrum, privacy advocates encouraged the FTC to leverage its authority to strengthen the protections already provided by the Rule, including by expanding coverage to teens and treating an operator’s representation about its audience as one of the factors in determining whether a product or service is child-directed.

For more about the workshop and the FTC’s COPPA Rule review, click here.

Why it matters: The FTC’s workshop is just one piece of the review of the COPPA Rule, with the agency accepting public comments until December 9. Lawmakers have also jumped into the debate. A group of senators—Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)—sent a letter urging the FTC to improve the strength of children’s privacy protections, cautioning the agency against “favoring the interests of giant tech companies” over the well-being and privacy of children.