Privacy Groups Push FTC to Stay COPPA Course

Letter Follows Request from Broadcaster, Internet Advertisers, Studios to Delay Changes to Kids Privacy Rule Enforcement

Privacy advocates have asked the Federal Trade Commission not to delay the implementation of proposed changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. That came after the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Digital Marketing Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Motion Picture Association of America and others on Tuesday asked the FTC to delay implementation from July 1 to Jan. 1, 2014.

In a letter to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Children Now, Common Sense Media, Consumers Union and more than a dozen others said the commission should not push back the July timetable for the changes.

Pointing to the new chairwoman's October 2012 speech, they wrote: "You observed that the more that industry protests the proposed changes to the COPPA rule to explicitly prohibit online behavioral advertising to children, 'the more it raises questions about industry's claimed intention not to target children.' In the present instance, similarly, the more industry seeks to delay the implementation of rules, the more it raises questions about industry's intent to comply."

IAB et al had argued in its letter that the delay was needed because the changes, particularly making first parties liable for third-party data collection that benefits them, "significantly impact the long-standing business model that these companies have relied upon in planning the capabilities of their products and services since COPPA's inception," and they needed more time to "absorb the impact" of the changes and implement them. They also said it would have helped if the FTC had released its promised FAQs on the changes, which are not due out until next month.

CDD et al countered that the FTC has provided plenty of guidance. "Both the IAB and the Alliance have long-­established mechanisms for educating their members, whether large or small. They have also participated in conversations about the impending changes to COPPA for more than a year."

The FTC is updating enforcement of the rules administering the act to square them with the changes in digital marketing since the law was passed in 1998, before Google, Twitter, Facebook and smartphones.

In December, the FTC unveiled the final version of the FTC's proposed changes and updates, which includes bringing geolocation, cookies (plug-ins) and behavioral targeting explicitly within the rules and adding website responsibility for third party collections.

The CDD and IAB letters came the day before Senator Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.), who was in attendance and in support of the changes when they were announced at a press conference last year, is holding a hearing on Wednesday to learn why, at least in his view, the voluntary "do not track" regime for adults and kids is not on track.

Ramirez has also signaled she does not think industry has done enough to make an online do not track option easy and ubiquitous.