As you may know, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires online businesses to secure “verifiable parental consent” before collecting personal information from a minor under the age of 13.
A new Maine law, set to go into effect September 12th, will extend this requirement to include all minors less than 18 years of age and further prohibit the use of their personal information for marketing purposes, regardless of parental consent. It goes without saying that this creates unrealistic compliance burdens for online companies who would need to individually identify and accommodate Maine minors who use their services.
For companies protesting the legislation it was a welcome relief this week when Maine’s Attorney General announced that she will not enforce the law, pending a legislative review. While a fortunate reprieve, companies that collect the personal information of minors, especially those between the ages of 13 and 18, should remain vigilant and recognize that there is a growing concern amongst parents nationwide for the safety and privacy of their children on the Internet. Growing levels of parental concern may well propel the introduction of similar legislation in other states in the near future. It should be further noted that although the Maine Attorney General has said she will not enforce the law, companies seeking to overturn* it worry that private parties could nonetheless sue since the law provides for a private right of action.
The Federal Trade Commission will host a COPPA review in 2010 and as the largest COPPA seal holder TRUSTe looks forward to participating in this process and welcomes your input on how to best achieve a balance between necessary information collection and the online protection of minors. Regardless of future regulatory changes, TRUSTe’s Children’s Privacy Seal will continue to signify a company’s genuine commitment to protecting children on the Internet and TRUSTe will be there to assist in compliance measures at every step of the way.
As a parent of teens (and on a more personal note), it is a challenge to monitor teens both online and off in the high school years and it’s not unreasonable to look for legislative solutions. But like most of these challenges, start with a conversation and invite them to friend you, you might be surprised.
– Fran Maier, CEO
*9/9/09 update: the plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss their case challenging the law.