COPPA Turns One: FTC Settles With Three Firms Over Violations, Approves Second Safe Harbor

Author:Mr James Long Jr
Profession:Holland & Knight LLP
 
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On April 19th, almost one year to the day that Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

regulations implementing the Children's Online Privacy protection Act of 19981

(the Act or COPPA) became effective, the FTC announced its first civil penalty

enforcement action under the Act as well as its approval of a second safe harbor

program under COPPA.

The FTC brought a civil enforcement action against three Web sites,

www.girlslife.com, www.bigmailbox.com and www.insidetheweb.com, that the FTC

alleged had violated the COPPA Rule by collecting personally identifying

information from children under 13 years of age without prior parental consent.

Girlslife.com, geared to girls aged 9 to 14, posts content such as advice

columns, contests and pen-pal programs. Girlslife.com partnered with

BigMailbox.com and Looksmart.com to offer free e-mail accounts and online

message boards. The FTC charged each defendant with collecting personal

information (full name, home address, phone number, and email address) without

posting privacy policies, collecting more personal information than was

necessary to participate in the online activity, and failing to obtain parental

consent prior to the collection of such personal information. In addition

BigMailbox.com was charged with providing children's personal information to

third parties without prior parental consent. Girlslife.com has agreed to pay a

fine of $30,000; the other two Web sites have agreed to pay fines of $35,000. In

addition, all three sites have agreed to delete all personal information that

had been...

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