With the revision of the “The Children’s Online Privacy Act” it might be time for businesses to assess whether they are COPPA complaint.  Below are some things that all businesses whether they are new or have been around for a long time should consider.

COPPA applies to any commercial website or online service (including mobile apps and social networking sites) targeting kids under 13 that collects, uses, or discloses personal information from children. The law also applies to general audience websites or online services that are knowingly collecting, using or disclosing personal information from children under 13. Personal information is defined as a screen name, or a “persistent identifier” such as IP address, or traditional information including phone number, social security number, photographs, video, and more.

If your app or website fits the criteria above, you are required under COPPA to post privacy policies, provide notice to parents, and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children. There are several ways to do this. You can get parental consent by offering a mail-in consent form, a toll-free number or video conference for parents to contact your business.

If a purchase is made by a parent on the site, use of a credit card that provides notice of the sale to the account holder may suffice. The guidelines state, however, that use of a parent’s app store account password is not sufficient to comply with the parental consent requirement. Some exceptions to the prior parental consent rule may apply.  To be safe, double check with the FTC website.

If you answered yes to any of the above and aren’t compliant the FTC may file a complaint against your business.  You can be held liable for up to $16,000 for each child your business unlawfully collects information about.  States may also bring COPPA enforcement actions against businesses, such as issuing a court order for your company to comply with COPPA.

How can you tell if the child lies about his/her age on a general audience website? The website owner isn’t required to investigate the age of visitors to their site. However, if you have knowledge that a child is using your site (for example,  a parent contacts you), then you could be responsible for gathering information from a child.

In addition to the guidelines and frequently asked questions, you can visit the “COPPA Hotline” COPPAHotLine@ftc.gov where you can get more information.

The revised COPPA rule culminates more than two years of review by the agency to modernize the rule.

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The Federal Trade Commission’s revised Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA) took effect July 1st, giving parents greater control over the online collection of their children’s personal information. The revised COPPA rule addresses changes in the way children use and access the Internet, including the increased use of mobile devices and social networking. It widens the definition of children’s personal information to include persistent identifiers such as cookies that track a child’s activity online, as well as geolocation information, photos, videos, and audio recordings.

The FTC has also released two new pieces designed to help small businesses that operate child-directed websites, mobile applications and plug-ins ensure they are compliant with upcoming changes to the rule.

The first is a document, “The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule: A Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business, which is designed especially for small businesses and contains a step-by-step process for companies to determine if they are covered by COPPA, and what steps they are required to take to protect children’s privacy. The FTC also released a video aimed at businesses to help explain their obligations under the revised rule, including an explanation of the changes.

When setting up an online business, there are a lot of elements that you need need to consider. For example, websites designed for children under age 13 or sites that know they’re collecting information from children under 13 are subject to rules concerning child online privacy. Failure to comply with these rules can lead to steep government fines. Congress enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998. The law allows parents to control the information collected by businesses and websites from children. Since that time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has monitored businesses to ensure they’re in compliance with COPPA.

Our next blog will outline some questions that can help make sure your business complies with the updated COPPA policy.

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Google has introduced a new set of widgets for Google+. The new widgets include a new “follow” button and larger “badges” for pages, profiles and communities.

The new Google+ Follow button is a standalone plugin that lets visitors follow you from your site. It’s still very similar to Twitter’s follow button. The button has three looks: a look for when you have yet to follow the Google+ user, a look for when it is clicked and a look for after you have followed the individual. Since Google+ is all about circles, this button lets you add someone directly to your circles when you follow them, just like on the actual social network.

Google says the Follow button uses the same JavaScript as its +1 button, meaning if you have the latter already, all you have to do is configure the plugin and add the markup to your page. The +1 and Share buttons will also be updated automatically “over the next few weeks,” Google says, although they’re just getting minor changes to the visual style that’s more consistent with the recent improvements to Google+.

For website managers who want more, Google rolled out “badges” that feature the user’s Google+ profile image. For the first time, badges are also available for communities in addition to individuals and brands. The update badges will be more customizable.  They will allow users to select between portrait and landscape layout modes, light and dark color schemes, and whether or not to include the tagline. The community badges also include a “preview” button: When clicked, the button opens the community page in a new browser tab displaying. If website publishers don’t update their badges manually 90 days from now, Google will automatically update them using default settings, the company said.

Google+ is now two years old.  These small changes are one of the ways it has added to its celebration.

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