The FTC is actively seeking public comment on revised language meant to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). New language will redefine what constitutes an “operator” and a “website or online service directed to children,” as well as modify the type of data that qualifies as “personal information.”
When COPPA established rules around online collection of personal information from children under 13, the Internet was a vastly different place. Mark Zuckerberg was a teenager. Steve Jobs hadn’t shown us OS X yet. And it would be many years before kids had a Club Penguin to hang out in.
The new rules are intended to reflect the evolution of the online world, which will likely impact advertisers more than any other category of business.
New COPPA Definition of Personal Information
The FTC is proposing a new definition of “personal information” as it relates to COPPA rules. The key change in this case is recognizing that any persistent identifier that could be used to recognize a user over time is considered personal information. This means that the cookie data collected for things like retargeting and behavioral targeting will likely fall under an updated definition of personal information.
What Constitutes an Operator in COPPA Rules?
Under the current wording in COPPA, a site directed to children under 13 that collects no personally identifiable information isn’t considered an operator, even if the site uses advertising that does collect data using a persistent identifier. In the updated language, running ads that use a persistent identifier will classify a site as an operator. Advertisers collecting persistent identifiers (or any other personal information) will also be classified as operators.
How Will COPPA Changes Impact Advertisers?
If you don’t run a site or run ad campaigns directed at children under 13, in most cases these changes will have little or no impact on the way you do business. One key challenge will be for advertisers who operate on sites with mixed-age audiences.
In a scenario where the audience is made up of a significant percentage of users both over and under 13, behavioral targeting may need to be disabled because there won’t be a way to detect whether the user is over the age of 13 or not. It’s possible we will see sites doing deeper integration with advertising partners so that ads are tailored in an age appropriate manner, dropping targeting for users who are clearly minors while maintaining targeting for older users.
Since the FTC is still seeking public comments, the COPPA rules aren’t officially modified at this point. It is highly possible the FTC will modify the rules further before they arrive at their final wording. With the FTC also coming at behavioral targeting via Do Not Track, advertisers will likely need to be prepared for any changes to COPPA that specifically target them.
As always, head to our data and privacy practices page to learn more about how TUNE views and handles privacy regulations like COPPA, GDPR, and others.
Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.