A lot of general-audience Web sites may not be aware that they fall under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998
If you have interactive features such as e-mail, chat or contests on your
World Wide Web site, beware: Your site may fall under the Children's Online
Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which went into effect last month.
Although it's geared toward kid-oriented Web sites, COPPA covers all
commercial Web sites and online services that knowingly collect information
from children under age 13. A general-audience Web site must meet COPPA
requirements if it asks for users' birth dates or ages and any of its users
are under 13.
The law also applies to sites that receive e-mail from users who identify
themselves as children and sites where children post their age in e-mail
messages, instant messages, bulletin boards or Web pages.
"There are a lot of general-audience Web sites that are not aware that
they fall under COPPA. They think this is just a kids' statute," says Nancy
Savitt, a partner with Aftab & Savitt, a New Jersey law firm that specializes
in COPPA compliance. "If they collect information that's age-related on
any forms or if they monitor message boards or chats and someone comes in
and says, "I'm 12,' they now have actual knowledge...and they have to comply
Savitt says general-audience Web sites need to block children
under 13 from signing up for interactive features until parental consent
is received. Their banner advertisers can't collect personal information
from children who click through from their site. And they need to monitor
co-branded services such as online greeting cards that require personal
COPPA applies to individually identifiable information about a child
that is collected online, such as full name, home address, e-mail address,
telephone number or any other information that would allow someone to identify
or contact the child. The law also applies to other types of information
collected through cookies or other tracking mechanisms when it is tied to
individually identifiable information.
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