Commentary

Rockefeller Urges FTC To Move Faster On COPPA Rules

Fourteen months ago the Federal Trade Commission said it was seeking input about whether to revamp the rules regarding the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

COPPA, enacted in 1998, prohibits Web site operators from collecting personal information from children younger than 13 without their parents' consent. The last time the FTC issued regulations for the statute was in 2000 -- long before the rise in smartphones and geolocation tracking.

When the FTC said it would consider whether to issue new regulations, the agency specifically called for comment on how the regulations should apply to new platforms, and whether to include mobile geolocation information (among other data) in the definition of personal information.

Though the agency has been gathering information, it isn't moving fast enough for everyone. Today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) urged the FTC's consumer protection chief to speed things along. "All I'm saying is: Get the rules out," the head of the Commerce Committee told David Vladeck at a hearing this morning about mobile privacy.

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"We hear you loud and clear," Vladeck responded.

Rockefeller also asked Vladeck whether he would agree that COPPA is "widely disregarded."

Vladeck responded that he "did not know" whether he agreed with that statement.

He did say, however, that the FTC hoped that recent enforcement actions -- such as the one against virtual world company Playdom -- would send a signal to the industry. Playdom recently agreed to pay $3 million to settle allegations that it collected and disclosed information from "hundreds of thousands" of children ages 12 and younger, the FTC announced last week.

Rockefeller, meanwhile, is pursuing his own investigation into possible COPPA violations. He said this week that he sent letters to Apple and Google, asking what steps they take to ensure that mobile app developers comply with COPPA.

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