A new COPPA Rule went into effect on July 1, 2013. As we pass the one year anniversary of that date, the FTC is yet to bring a single COPPA enforcement action under the new Rule. All indications are this is set to change as the FTC begins to ramp up COPPA enforcement actions.
The New COPPA Rule
The FTC is often touted as being unreasonable in the way it pursues a number of its regulatory duties. While such criticism is often deserved, the Agency has taken a more reasonable approach to the new COPPA Rule.
The substance of the new Rule was a hotly debated topic when the proposed language was distributed for public comment. The Rule had not been updated since 2000, which is rather amazing when you consider how much the Internet has evolved since that time. We’ve gone from dial-up modems making god awful connection noises to sites that incorporate on the fly videos. Viva la revolution!
Alas, this evolution also meant the COPPA Rule issued in 2000 was not only out of date, it was prehistoric. Forming a new Rule was not just a matter of making a few simple updates to the existing regulations. No, the changes needed to incorporate apps, social media, instant messaging and potential future technological developments as well.
After many delays, the new Rule was issued in January of 2013 and went into effect in July of the same year. Instead of immediately terrorizing the online industry with the threat of enforcement actions, the FTC pursued a “get the word out” campaign. The goal was to alert the online business community to the new obligations and to provide a transitory period for businesses to get into compliance.
This period of regulatory compassion is about to end.
COPPA Rule Enforcement
Conduct a search for websites directed to younger kids and what do you find? A large number of these platforms are not COPPA compliant. The operators of these sites either do not care about their COPPA duties or are unaware of them despite the FTC spending a year alerting businesses to the new Rule. At this point, the only step the FTC can take to improve COPPA compliance rates is to bring enforcement actions, and there is evidence the Agency is planning on doing just that.
The Politico website runs a “Morning Tech” service detailing the latest developments in technological fields including legal developments. In a recent post, the Morning Tech crew asked the FTC about the lack of COPPA enforcement actions. Maneesha Mithal, an agency director in the privacy department, indicated online businesses should expect to see more COPPA actions moving forward. You’ve been warned.
Are You Exposed?
What does this mean for the average online operator concerned about COPPA? If you are not already sure of your exact obligations in regard to the law, you need to move quickly to get your ducks in order before the FTC comes knocking. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.