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The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

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On April 21, 2000, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
(“the Act”) went into effect. If you are a Web site operator who has a
site that is directed toward children covered by the Act, or if you are a
Web site designer building or a host hosting such a site, you must be
familiar with the legal provisions and ramifications of the
Act.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  To determine whether a Web site is directed to children (defined as
being of age 13 years and younger), the Federal Trade Commission (the
governmental body in charge of enforcement) looks at several factors as to
the site, including:

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  The subject
matter;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  The visual or audio
content;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  The age of models on the
site;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  The language;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  Whether advertising on the site is
directed to children;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  Information regarding the age of
the actual or intended audience; and
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  Whether a site uses animated
characters or other child-oriented features.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  By these standards, the Act deals with sites that either actively
cater to children or who have actual knowledge that children come to the
site. Thus, if your site fits into these categories or others and also
collects information about children, you are subject to the Act’s
provisions and failure to comply with those provisions can subject you to
rather substantial penalties. Indeed, it would be very prudent for you to
comply with the applicable provisions of the Act’s requirement even if
your site is even likely to attract children, whether or not you actively
promote the same. It would appear that if your site even features
advertising that is directed toward children that the site then falls
within the scope of the Act.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  To determine whether you are an “operator” of the site, the FTC
considers the following factors, among others:

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  Who owns and controls the
information;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  Who pays for the collection and
maintenance of the information;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  What the preexisting contractual
relationships are in connection with the information; and
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  What role the Web site plays in
collecting or maintaining the information.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  Therefore, if your site collects information about children (see
below) and you are deemed to be the “operator” of the site, you may be
liable for compliance under the Act.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  And while these provisions may not appear to apply directly to Web
designers, in the Web design/client relationship there may be an
implication that the designer should be held to know about such laws and
failing to include the appropriate provisions to make the site comply with
the Act may subject the designer to liability as to the client. The same
would apply to the client/host relationship, and the host should have
these same kinds of legal protections from the site. Thus designers and
hosts should be examining their written contracts with their respective
clients to make certain that the burden of compliance does not fall on the
designer’s or host’s shoulders.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>What
Kind of Information <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>Is
Covered by the Act?

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  The Act is designed to protect children from certain personal
information-gathering procedures if there is no parental consent. Thus, if
your site collects information such as names, addresses, phone numbers,
e-mail addresses, and other information from which a child’s identity can
be determined, either online or offline, the Act applies to your site. But
the Act also applies to information such as about hobbies, interests, and
information collected through cookies or other types of tracking
mechanisms if those mechanisms can be tied to individually identifiable
information.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>What
Must the Site Owner <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>Do
to Comply?

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  If the Act applies to your site, you must post a link to a notice
of your site’s information practices on the home page of your site and at
each area where the site collects the above information from children. If
you run a site that is more of a general audience site but which has a
separate area that targets children, you must post a link to your privacy
notice on the home page of the children’s area.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  The link to this notice must be “clear and prominent.” And the FTC
guidelines suggest that you may want to use a larger size font or
different color type on a contrasting background and it specifically
states that merely having a link at the bottom of the page is not
sufficient.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>The
notice must contain:

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  The name and address of all the
operators of the site;<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>
•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  The kinds of information being
collected and how it is being collected;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  How the operator intends to use
the information;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  Whether the operator provides this
information to third parties and information about those third parties and
how they intend to use the information;
<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  A notice to parents that they have
the right to allow the collection of the information by the operator but
not by third parties; and<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>
•<SPAN
style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  A notice that the parent can
review the child’s information and ask to have it
deleted.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  There are other provisions that must be included in the notice as
well.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  One of the key parts of the Act is that the operators must provide
a written procedure for a notice sent directly to the parents and for the
parents to actively consent, in writing, to the collection of this
information prior to the information being collected. The site operator
must notify a parent in the form of an e-mail, postal mail, fax, and in
other similar ways set forth in the regulations, and the operator must
then get a “verifiable parental consent” to the entire process. During an
interim period, there are specific regulations about how this consent is
to be obtained based upon how the information is going to be used. The
more public the use of the information, the more stringent are the
requirements for consent. And there are regulations that specify what
“verifiable” means in the context of the Act.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  In the event the site changes how the information is collected,
used, or disclosed, a new, verifiable parental consent must be obtained
and, of course, the written policy must be changed on the
site.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  At any time, the parent can revoke any previously granted consent
either to the collection of information or to its use. Thus, if you
disseminate this information to third parties, you must have a
corresponding procedure to have such third parties delete any information
so requested to be deleted by the parent.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>Conclusion

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  The above discussion is <I
style=”mso-bidi-font-style: normal”>not intended to be exhaustive of
the Act’s scope nor its requirements and you should consult with an
experienced Internet law attorney to advise you about how the Act may
apply to your site.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”><SPAN
style=”mso-tab-count: 1″>  Given the potential severity of the impact on children as well as
the significant legal liability to which the site may be exposed by
failure to comply, you as a site owner are well advised to seek
appropriate legal advice.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> <I
style=”mso-bidi-font-style: normal”><SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>This
article is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The specific
facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would
be anticipated by you. You should consult with an attorney familiar with
the issues and the laws.

<SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”> 
<I
style=”mso-bidi-font-style: normal”><SPAN
style=”FONT-FAMILY: ‘New York’; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt”>No
portion of this article may be copied, retransmitted, reposted,
duplicated, or otherwise used without the express written approval of the
author.

Ivan Hoffman is a publishing, copyright, Internet law, recording, and music
attorney as well as a published writer and author. He practices in the Los
Angeles area. You may reach him on the Internet at ivan@ivanhoffman.com or
via telephone at 818/342-1762.

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor June, 2000, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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