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Is Your App Directed at Kids in the US? July 1st is the Deadline to Comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”)

June 26, 2013

On July 1, 2013, COPPA’s amended Rule takes effect and Canadian companies are expected to comply if their website, app, or online service is directed to or knowingly collects information from children in the United States.  The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has already sent “educational” letters to companies outside the US.

A major change from Canadian law is that the Rule requires operators of websites, apps and online services directed to or knowingly collecting information from children in the US to obtain verifiable parental consent (such as requiring a parent to call a toll-free number) before collecting any personal information, unless one of the Rule’s limited exceptions apply.  In Canada, although industry associations such as the Canadian Marketing Association have policies that recommend parental consent when collecting information from children, there are no legislative requirements. Presently, in Canada, requiring parental consent prior to collection of children’s personal information is a matter of best practices to ensure meaningful consent is given to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, rather than a prescribed legal requirement with teeth.

Practically, extra-territorial enforcement of COPPA remains a live question where a Canadian company does not voluntarily comply and has no physical operations or assets in the US  That said, the FTC has indicated it will be more lenient with companies that can show that they have tried to comply with COPPA in early months after the Rule is implemented.  Thus, while some Canadian companies may already have prior parental consent practices in place, on July 1st all Canadian companies collecting info from US kids online should consider addressing COPPA’s legislative requirements.

For more information on what steps you can take to comply, contact US legal counsel. The FTC also maintains an e-mail hotline at: COPPAHotLine@ftc.gov.
 

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