Keeping Children’s Privacy Safe Online

The 4A’s recently hosted a very interesting and relevant webinar, “What’s coming in 2022 with safety, privacy and COPPA compliance in advertising”. The webinar discussed the future of COPPA safe harbor programs, lessons learned from the FTC recent COPPA enforcement actions and predictions of what’s in store for privacy regulation in 2022.

Understanding COPPA

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is the federal law that “imposes specific requirements on operators of websites and online services to protect the privacy of children under 13”. The act took effect in early 2000, before several social platforms were even created. COPPA applies to every website that collects data from children under the age of 13, which includes all social media sites. The Federal Trade Commission actively works on creating guidelines to help website operators ensure they are following COPPA.

  • Clearly display downloadable consent forms.
  • Clearly display the privacy policy describing information practices for personal information.
  • Take reasonable efforts to provide a privacy notice to the parents about collecting their children’s data.
  • Take reasonable procedures to protect the privacy of the children.

There have been new bills introduced to congress in recent years, that would raise the age of consent from 13 to 15. It is unlikely any changes to COPPA will be made in 2022, but it is an important landscape to keep an eye on.

Large Penalties

These laws that are created to keep children safe when using the oh so accessible internet, come with large penalties. The webinar gave the example of Weight Watches subsidiary Kurbo Inc.

Kurbo is a weight loss app marketed to children as young as 8 and was collecting their personal information without parental permission. The app allegedly allowed children to bypass age restrictions and register without parental consent.  Kurbo was aware of users on the app who were under the age of 13 and did nothing to shut down their specific profiles. These actions clearly went against COPPA, and Kurbo was instructed to pay 1.5 million in civil penalties, destroy all personal information that was collected and delete any work/products that used data that was improperly taken from children.

This case led me to question the bigger social media companies and how they handle staying COPPA complaint. As a result, you are unable to age target below 13 on Facebook/Instagram, and TikTok. The speakers on the webinar also explained that many companies work with the FTC or CARU to make sure they are staying in line with COPPA restrictions, as they are ever changing.

As advertisers, it is important to be well versed in these rules so we, as an agency, can better serve our clients and provide them with the most up to date information. Just like the digital advertising space is ever changing and growing, COPPA laws and targeting restrictions will change as well. In today’s world, media is an addiction to many adults, pre-teens and even children. It is important that we have COPPA in place and companies like CARU to protect kids from direct marketing, as children are especially vulnerable.

This blog was written by Senior Digital Media Planner/Buyer, Maddi Sacks.

Share this post

Scroll to Top