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Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

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COPPA is a U.S. federal law that prohibits a Web site operator from collecting information from children under the age of 13 without parent permission.



The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law that prohibits a Web site operator from knowingly collecting information from children under the age of 13 unless the operator obtains parental consent and allows parents to review their children's information and restrict its further use.

The primary goal of COPPA is to place parents in control over what information is collected, used and disclosed from their young children online.

COPPA applies to operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children, and operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13.  Those operators that fall under COPPA must:

  1. Post a clear and comprehensive privacy policy on their website describing their information practices for children’s personal information;
  2. Provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, before collecting personal information from children;
  3. Give parents the choice of consenting to the operator’s collection and internal use of a child’s information, but prohibiting the operator from disclosing that information to third parties;
  4. Provide parents access to their child’s personal information to review and/or have the information deleted;
  5. Give parents the opportunity to prevent further use or online collection of a child’s personal information;
  6. Maintain the confidentiality, security, and integrity of information they collect from children[1].

Violators of COPPA are liable for civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.

FTC Fair Information Practices

The FTC Fair Information Practices (FIP)[2] is a set of principles to assure that the collection of personal information is practiced in a fair manner and provide adequate privacy protections. These principles do not address personal information collected from children, but FIPs are applicable to parents, with regard to COPPA. The application of FIP principles to information collected from children is broken down into two sections:

  1. Parental Notice/Awareness and Parental Choice/Consent
  2. Access/Participation and Integrity/Security


US v. Looksmart, Ltd.[3]

US v. Monarch Services, Inc., et al.

US v. Bigmailbox.Com, Inc., et al.

United States of America v. Lisa Frank, Inc.[4]

A $30,000 fine in civil penalties for Lisa Frank, Inc. was ordered by the FTC for the violation of the COPPA Rule and the FTC Act.

United States v. American Pop Corn Company[5]

The FTC ordered American Pop Corn Company to pay $10,000 for violation of the COPPA Rule.

United States of America (for the FTC) v. Hershey Foods Corporation[6]

Hershey Food Corporation will pay civil penalties of $85,000 for violation of the COPPA Rule.

United States of America (for the FTC) v. Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, Inc., Mrs. Fields' Holding Company, Inc., and Mrs. Fields' Original Cookies, Inc.

Mrs. Fields Cookies will pay $100,000 in civil penalties for violation of the COPPA Rule.

United States of America (for the FTC), Plaintiff, v. Xanga.com, Inc., a corporation, John Hiler, individually and as an officer of the corporation, and Marc Ginsburg, individually and as an officer of the corporation, Defendants[7]

A civil penalty of $1 million will be paid by social networking website operators Xanga.com, Inc. and its principals, Marc Ginsburg and John Hiler, for violation of COPPA.

United States (for the FTC), Plaintiff, v. Iconix Brand Group, Inc., Defendant[8]

A $250,000 civil penalty will be paid by Iconix Brand Group, Inc. for violation of COPPA.

United States of America (for the FTC), Plaintiff, v. Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a general partnership subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, Defendant[9]

Sony BMG Music Entertainment agreed to pay $1 million for violating COPPA.

United States of America (for the FTC), Plaintiff, v. Industrious Kid, Inc., a corporation and Jeanette Symons, individually and as an officer of the corporation, Defendants

FTC v. Toysmart.com, LLC, and Toysmart.com, Inc.[10]

Emerging News

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed new revisions to COPPA.[11]  The revisions are focused on current technology and uses of information.  Areas being address are the rise of geo-location technology (e.g. Global Positioning System (GPS) on mobile phones) and behavior-based Web advertisement techniques (e.g. Google). A major focus is determining whether the technologies used today create new privacy concerns as children browse the Internet on computers and mobile devices.  The mobile web is the most significant factor in the review.   Currently, the COPPA's definition of "Internet" does not include mobile communication.  Changing this definition could significantly change how children utilize smartphone devices.

Public feed back is being requested.[12]  Comment submissions on the suggested revisions can be made until June 30, 2010.


  1. http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.shtm
  2. http://www.ftc.gov/reports/privacy3/fairinfo.shtm
  3. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2001/04/girlslife.shtm
  4. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2001/10/lisafrank.shtm
  5. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/02/popcorn.shtm
  6. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/02/hersheyfield.shtm
  7. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/09/xanga.shtm
  8. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/iconix.shtm
  9. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/12/sonymusic.shtm
  10. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2000/07/toysmart2.shtm
  11. http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/03/100324coppa.pdf
  12. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/03/coppa.shtm

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