Future of Privacy Forum Submits Comments to FTC on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations focused on privacy leadership and scholarship, submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in response to the agency’s ongoing review of the federal statute.

“As COPPA enters its third decade, we believe it is important for the FTC to be conducting this rule review. As more technology is adopted in both the classroom and the home, the FTC has a responsibility to ensure that COPPA is keeping pace,” says Amelia Vance, Director of FPF’s Youth and Education Privacy Project.

In the letter, FPF urges the FTC to modernize COPPA in three key areas to ensure the law can continue to adapt to the rapidly-changing technology landscape and respond to the evolving ways children use the Internet:

  1. Clarify Policies Related to Voice-Enabled Technologies. The prevalence and accuracy of voice-enabled technologies have increased rapidly as a result of powerful machine learning on large datasets. FPF recommends additional guidance regarding how COPPA’s existing privacy protections apply to voice-enabled technologies, recognizing important distinctions concerning the use of voice data. FPF also recommended codifying the existing nonenforcement policy for operators that do not obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting an audio file of a child’s voice, provided the file is collected solely to perform a verbal instruction or request and is deleted immediately after the purpose fulfillment.
  2. Develop Guidance on COPPA’s “Actual Knowledge” Definition. Creating an internet that is safe and welcoming for children can conflict with preserving the internet that is useful and responsive for adults. The “actual knowledge” standard can be a pragmatic way to balance those interests. However, an influx of technology that analyzes large data sets from general audience websites and services raises questions about the meaning of “actual knowledge.” FPF recommends the FTC develop guidance regarding COPPA’s definition of “actual knowledge” that provide greater clarity for businesses and parents in line with reasonable public policy goals.
  3. Encourage Greater FERPA Alignment. While the primary federal student privacy law, FERPA, has fairly clear requirements for school relationships with education technology (edtech) providers, the requirements of COPPA when edtech providers collect students’ personal information from schools are not. Schools need to know when they may exclusively exercise COPPA’s rights regarding the access and deletion of children’s data. FPF recommends that the FTC promptly clarify the circumstances in which schools may exclusively exercise COPPA rights regarding student data.

To read the FPF’s full comments to the FTC, click here. For a new “Myth Busters” blog from FPF that explains common misunderstandings about COPPA, click here.

For more information and resources from the Future of Privacy Forum, visit www.fpf.org.