FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Changes to TRUSTE’s COPPA Safe Harbor Program

FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Changes to TRUSTE’s COPPA Safe Harbor Program
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The Federal Trade Commission is seeking comment on proposed changes to TRUSTe’s safe harbor program under the agency’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. The proposed changes are a result of the settlement agreement between TRUSTe and the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who recently announced that TRUSTe agreed to settle allegations that it failed to properly verify that customer websites aimed at children did not run third-party software to track users.

The FTC’s COPPA Rule includes a “safe harbor” provision designed to encourage increased industry self-regulation in this area. Under this provision, industry groups and others may ask the Commission to approve self-regulatory guidelines that implement the protections of the Rule. Companies that comply with the FTC-approved guidelines receive safe harbor from agency enforcement action under the Rule.

The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires, among other things, that operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under the age of 13, or general audience websites and online services that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13, must post comprehensive privacy policies on their sites, notify parents about their information practices, and obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any personal information from children under the age of 13.

In a Federal Register notice to be published shortly, the FTC is seeking comment on proposed changes to TRUSTe’s existing safe harbor program including the addition of a new requirement that participants conduct an annual internal assessment of third-parties’ collection of personal information from children on their websites or online services. Among the questions the Commission is seeking comment on is whether the mechanisms used to assess compliance with the proposed modified program requirements are effective. The comment period will last for 30 days until May 24.

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