The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposed guidelines that are designed to help Web site operators comply with the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.
The proposed guidelines were submitted to the FTC by a non-profit organization known as iSAFE, Inc. under a provision aimed at industry self-regulation. This provision allows non-profit groups and companies to request FTC approval of proposed guidelines – known as safe harbor programs – that govern compliance with the Rule.
Web site operators participating in FTC-approved safe harbor programs are subject to the programs’ disciplinary procedures. In cases where the FTC is considering legal action against a Web site operator, the agency takes into account the operator’s response to safe harbor disciplinary procedures.
The Rule requires operators of Web sites that are directed at children under 13 years old and that collect personal information from them – as well as operators of general-audience Web sites that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13 – to notify parents and obtain their consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any such information. Since the Rule took effect on April 21, 2000, four groups – the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, TrustE and Privo, Inc. – have received Commission approval for their safe harbor programs. In a Federal Register notice to be published shortly, the FTC seeks public comment about the proposed iSAFE guidelines; whether the guidelines provide “the same or greater protections for children” as those contained in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule; whether the mechanisms used to assess operators’ compliance are effective; whether incentives for operators’ compliance with the guidelines are effective; and whether the guidelines provide adequate means for resolving consumer complaints. The comment period will last for 45 days. iSAFE’s safe harbor application and the public comments received will be posted on the FTC’s Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/privacyinitiatives/childrens_shp.html.
NOTE: Publication of this Federal Register notice does not indicate Commission approval of the safe harbor application. The Commission has 180 days to review proposed self-regulatory guidelines and must set forth its conclusions in writing.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.