Beep! Beep! Make way for a caravan of “COPPA Cassandras.”
The Federal Trade Commission approved a new Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) verification process. And you know what that means: children’s advocacy groups are sounding alarms. What’s the latest COPPA complaint? In short: “Tricky kids are tricky – tricky enough to weasel their way around this photo verification process!”
A 30-Second COPPA Summary
First, let’s quickly review COPPA. Here are the main points:
- At the time of this writing, COPPA is one of the few federal online privacy laws in the United States.
- Its goal is to protect kids aged 12 and under from the evils of the Internet.
- The crux of COPPA is the verification requirement. Parents and guardians must consent before a digital platform or app is allowed to collect information from minors or let them participate on certain websites.
The New COPPA Verification Method: Facial Recognition
Previously, guardians could satisfy the COPPA verification requirement via:
- Credit card authorization;
- Mail in consent;
- Fax in consent;
- Calling an 800 number; or
- Sending an electronic scan.
Now, parents have the option of using the Face Match Verified Photo Identification (FMVPI) method – or in the colloquial parlance of our time, “selfie verification.”
How does it work?
- First, the parent or guardian submits a government issued identification picture (i.e., driver’s license or passport pic).
- Second, the parent or guardian takes a selfie with either a smartphone or webcam and submits it.
- If the two images match, then verification is complete and the biometric data is erased within five minutes.
Naysayers: “COPPA Facial Recognition Method Unsafe Because Today’s Tots Are Tricky.”
COPPA is frequently amended. And every time officials update it, someone voices concern about the change. The Facial recognition verification amendment is no exception; concerned parties have taken to the Internet, flash mobbing a cacophony of caution.
So, what’s the main gripe about the new COPPA verification method? In a phrase: high trickery potential. The anti-FMVPI camp insists that sneaky kids will cajole “willing adults” (i.e., sketchy adults) into posing as their parents or guardians. Other folks opposed to imaging technology verification also argue that today’s wee-ones are more than savvy enough to:
- lift mom’s or dad’s license without mom or dad noticing;
- take a picture of mom or dad with a smartphone or webcam; and
- submit both with neither mom or dad the wiser.
After considering the potential for deceit, regulators felt the concerns were overblown because the system incorporates appropriate safeguards. A proponent of the imaging technology explained that measures are in place to “reasonably [calculate], in light of available technology, to ensure that the person providing consent is the child’s parent.”
Who Needs To Follow COPPA Rules?
Since COPPA’s ascendance into U.S. federal law books, there’s been confusion as to who must follow the rules and who is exempt. And, to be fair, the confusion was understandable; language in the early iterations of the bill was, shall we say, vague.
But these days, edits have been made, and clarifications added. Here’s the COPPA bottom line:
- If your website or app, in any way whatsoever, caters to children aged 12 and under, adhere to COPPA rules – even if you don’t target kids; even if you buried a clause, in the terms, forbidding minors from using the site. If a website or app could be attractive to the kidlings – due to animations or color schemes or topic matter – follow COPPA.
- If you operate or develop an advertising distribution app – or any other type of plugin – you, too, are responsible for following COPPA protocol.
Want to make sure you’re on the right side of the legal COPPA fence? Chat with an attorney who focuses on Internet law. It’ll only cost you a couple of hundred dollars, give you peace of mind, and maybe save you millions of dollars in sanctions.
Consult With A COPPA Lawyer
Are you ready to speak with an experienced COPPA law attorney? If so, get in touch with Aaron Kelly. A top-rated lawyer, Aaron maintains high ratings on AVVO, in addition to a preeminent AV rating. Want to know more about the guy? Click here for his bio.
COPPA violations are expensive. Avoid them. Partner with an experienced COPPA lawyer – one who will work to keep you on FTC’s good side.