NCTA: COPPA Needs No Major Overhaul

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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the Federal Trade Commission that the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) has been working well, and cautions the agency against making any big changes to its enforcement.

That came in comments to the FTC, which is conducting a periodic review of how, and whether, to make any changes to its rule implementing the law, which it has been enforcing since 2000.

COPPA regulates the collection and use of personal information from and about children collected on the Internet. NCTA argued that the rule has effectively limited the collection of personal information from children, while preserving "meaningful content" and maintaining the integrity of children's interactive experiences on the Internet.

Such groups as the Center for Digital Democracy and Consumers Union, are arguing for some major changes in the rules, including expanding the definition of personal information and applying the rule to interactive TV.

NCTA warned against "effectively barring children's access to interactive functionality within emerging technologies and platforms" and said it should retain its definition of personal information and leave parental consent mechanisms alone. CDD and company want the commission to tighten what they see as a loophole that could allow sites to use that parental permission as a way to collect personal info.

NCTA said that expanding "personal information" to include ZIP codes, gender or geo-location, as CDD and others have requested, should not be done for both policy and legal reasons. In NCTA's view, that extends beyond Congress' intent that "personal information" means info that would allow contacting a specific individual, and that placing information associated with a specific computer on par with that identifying a specific person would require tough and "cost-prohibitive" parental consent requirements for many Web sites.

According to NCTA, some of the advantages to collecting such information is providing a count-down clock to the premiere of a children's show (ZIP code), or offering activities or information tailored to boys or girls (gender).

As to interactive TV, NCTA asked the commission to give the technologies time to develop before deciding how to apply COPPA to online access via new media to avoid stifling innovation.

"The Commission must take great care to ensure that it does not expand the COPPA requirements in ways that discourage development of effective, safe, and creative interactive media products that may have great value for children and their families," said NCTA.

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