The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was originally passed in 1998 and it went into effect in 2000. Its intent was to regulate what website owners (called “Operators” in FTC speak) could and couldn’t do when their intended audience was a child under 13.
Since 2000, COPPA has been actively enforced, with fines up to $3 million levied to web sites that broke the law by capturing, storing or providing private information to third parties.
Smartphones are born
In 2007, the iPhone changed the world by showing that a fully functional touchscreen computer could be married with a cellphone to produce an all-around entertainment, communications, and computing device that was always at hand. Smartphones ushered in the era of “Apps” which are simply programs that run on the smartphones.
When Apple introduced the concept of the “App Store” in 2008, the notion of a “seamless” experience of seeing an app, pressing the “buy” button, and having the app automagically installed on your device in seconds was revolutionary, and it was very successful.
The tipping point
As connectivity and bandwidth improved along with CPU power and screen resolution, smartphones and later tablets rapidly overtook handheld gaming devices as the preferred mode of play for children.
As smartphones became more ubiquitous, advertising followed and began to use the “new” technology that mobile devices offered them – for example using GPS to learn where someone was located to know what ads might be better suited for them. Social networks like Facebook and Pinterest encouraged people to take photos with their smartphones and instantly post them online without a second thought about privacy.
Time for a new version of COPPA
Seeing the rise of an entirely new set of privacy problems brought about by the meteoric rise of the smartphone, committees were formed, depositions were taken, and in 2012, a new version of the COPPA law was passed that handled the new privacy issues. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2013.
In order to protect privacy of kids under 13, the new COPPA requires app developers to do a number of new things that they have no experience doing. The lawmakers did not consider the reality of what might happen if many thousands of app developers each tried to comply with it in their own way. AgeCheq recognized the massive disconnect between app developers, parents, and the law and has created a high perfomance, elegant system to facilitate compliance for developers and enable parents to easily monitor and curate their kids’ online privacy.
If you’d like to know more about COPPA, there are many good resources that we’ve used as we built the AgeCheq ecosystem.
- COPPA made easy for parents.
- The FTC on what parents should know about COPPA.
- FTC Guide on understanding how mobile apps and games can capture private data
- The FTC on how COPPA was updated.
- A letter sent from the FTC to app developers notifying them of new COPPA responsibilities
- The FTC’s advice to mobile app developers on complying.
- An FTC internal report from December 2012 showing dismal compliance among app developers
- Sign up for AgeCheq’s COPPA / Privacy news stream