Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a.k.a. Child Privacy Law

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is a United States federal law enacted October 21, 1998.

The act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. It details what a website must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13. While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents' permission, many websites altogether disallow underage children from using their services due to the amount of paperwork involved.

Historical perspective: The social networking giant Facebook told the Obama administration that child privacy laws should not apply to a Web site’s ability to incorporate a “like” button, because that would inhibit free expression. In 2012, the company argued that it had no control over sites that incorporate social plug-ins, such as a “like” button, and should therefore not be held liable under the child privacy law. A “like” counts as free speech, the company has repeatedly argued, and muzzling a user’s ability to “like” something on Facebook would infringe on a user’s constitutional rights. “A government regulation that restricts teens’ ability to engage in protected speech — as the proposed Coppa Rule would do — raises issues under the First Amendment,” according to Facebook.

Coppa requires sites that collect personal information on children to obtain written parental permission if the child is under the age of 13. Facebook prohibits children under 13 from signing up for its services, but studies have repeatedly shown that millions of under-age children do so anyway, often with help from their parents. Facebook argues that it already tries to keep children under the age of 13 off its site, but it cannot always control when someone under 13 visits a Web site that contains a Facebook “like” button.

NetLingo Classification: Net Organization