The first few clauses of nearly every law passed in the United States consist of a collection of phrases and their definitions as applicable to the particular law. This is certainly the case with the Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act of 1998. We’ve put together the following collection of COPPA terms and definitions to help you understand a number of the key phrases you will see mentioned frequently on this site and in COPPA documentation in general.
Actual Knowledge – This phrase refers to a situation where an online operator has “actual knowledge” that a child under 13 has signed up for a site or is providing information on it. For example, a child posts a video of their 11th birthday. When actual knowledge exists, COPPA compliance is a must.
Age Gateway – This term refers to a process in which a person attempting to purchase an app or join a site is asked to provide their birth date or verify they are 13 years old or over. The purpose of the age gateway is to establish evidence that the individual lied when joining the site, which can be used to fight a COPPA enforcement action.
Apps – There has long been a question as to whether Apps were covered by COPPA, particular smart phone apps. The new FTC regulations issued in 2013 clarified that any app that connects to the Internet in some way is covered. When the term “apps” is used in COPPA discussions, these are the applications being discussed.
Consent Form – This term refers to a form a parent is required to fill out in which they give consent for a child under 13 to be on a site. There is specific information that must be included in the form.
COPPA – The abbreviation for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.
COPPA Amendments – The phrase refers to changes in the regulations made by the FTC in 2013. The amendments were the first issued in 13 years and radically changed the obligations of businesses.
COPPA Compliance – The act of meeting the obligations detailed in the law and the FTC rule.
COPPA Rule – The FTC is charged by Congress with the creation of regulations surrounding COPPA. These regulations are referred to as the COPPA Rule.
Directed At Children – A website that is targeted towards users who are under the age of 13. There are many different factors looked at by the FTC in evaluating whether a site qualifies in this regard. If it does, COPPA compliance is a must.
Disconnect – Outstanding monitoring software that allows you to see what firms and companies are tracking you through a particular site. Works only with Google Chrome at this time – https://disconnect.me/
Enforcement Actions – Lawsuits filed by the FTC or the Attorney General of a particular state alleging an online operator has violated COPPA.
FTC – The Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency selected by Congress to issue regulations for COPPA and enforce the law through enforcement actions.
Geolocation – Under the new COPPA Rule issued in 2013, the geolocation of a person is considered a form of personal information. The collection and use of the geolocation of a qualifying child must be disclosed in any compliance effort.
Online Behavioral Tracking – A wide variety of companies now track users across multiple websites to create profiles. Any online business allowing third parties to track kids under 13 must disclose the same and the companies in questions to parents. Watch summary of 60 minute report here. http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/60-minutes-probes-data-brokers-and-online-tracking/
Plugins – Plugins are typically small third party software programs used on websites. For example, a website might use a free Facebook program to allow people to sign into a site using their Facebook information. The FTC has clarified that the use of such plugins is covered by COPPA.
State COPPA Actions – While FTC enforcement actions are the most common form of COPPA action, the law does allow states to pursue enforcement litigation as well. Only a few have at this time, but it is allowed.
Verified Parental Consent – Refers to the process of gaining consent from the parents of a child under 13 years old. The consent must be gained in a particular manner using a form that contains specific disclosures.