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What Every Kids’ E-Book Publisher Needs To Know About COPPA

by BB

The U. S. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) designed to protect the privacy of children in the digital world. This ruling has been amended to clarify the ruling and close some loopholes that have allowed app developers to collect children's data as they play with apps on smartphones and tablets.

On July 1, 2013 the amendement to the COPPA rulings (approved in December 2012 [11 PVLR 1833, 12/24/12]) goes into effect.  The amendment imposes parental notice and consent requirements on sites, online services, and apps that collect information from children younger than 13.

A necessary ruling for protecting children

All apps are digital, and all digital content can easily be monitored and tracked. Sometimes that monitoring is appropriate, for example, a company may track scores and provide prizes to the high scoring players. Sometimes that monitoring is financially driven, for example, some apps are offered free of charge and the app developer makes its money by serving targeted ads to the audience. (The app developer and its partners track user behavior then create ads based on that information in hopes that the audience member is more likely to patronize that advertiser.)  But sometimes that monitoring is exploitive, like when the app developer gleans information about the user then sells it to companies who use that information for other purposes.

Many people feel that some monitoring is fine, as long as the users “opt in” and are provided information about what exactly is being monitored. Children, however, should not be subjected to this kind of monitoring because they probably don’t understand what they’re opting in on. This is the kind of protection COPPA is trying to ensure.

Closing loopholes to proctect children's privacy

On July 1, 2013, all children's app developers and publishers have to obey new protections to children's privacy laws.  Here are some of the amendment details:
• Personal information such as geolocation information, photographs, and videos cannot be collected without parental notice and consent
• Third parties are not allowed to collect personal information from children via plug-ins without parental notice and consent
• Internet protocol addresses and other “persistent identifiers” that can be passed between web sites and apps cannot be collected

More information for publishers and app developers

If you are an author, publisher, or app developer, here are three web sites that provide more information on the COPPA compliance:

Posted by BB on June 30, 2013 in E-book Publishing Tips