to Protect Kids' Privacy Online
A Guide for Parents
playing, shopping, studying or just surfing, today's kids are taking advantage
of all that the web has to offer. But when it comes to their personal information,
who's in charge? The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, enforced by the
Federal Trade Commission, requires commercial website operators to get parental
consent before collecting any personal information from kids under 13. COPPA
allows teachers to act on behalf of a parent during school activities online,
but does not require them to do so. That is, the law does not require teachers
to make decisions about the collection of their students' personal information.
Check to see whether your school district has a policy about disclosing student
Here's a look at the
basic provisions of the law and what they mean for you and your students.
get a parent's consent.
In many cases, a site must obtain parental consent before collecting,
using or disclosing personal information about a child. Consent is not
required when a site is collecting an email address to:
- respond to a one-time
request from a child.
- provide notice to the
- ensure the safety of
the child or the site.
- send a newsletter or
other information on a regular basis as long as the site notifies
a parent and gives them a chance to say no to the arrangement.
act in place of a parent in deciding whether to give consent.
Consent from a parent authorizes the website to collect personal information
from your student. Subject to your school district's policies,
you may act on behalf of the parent in giving consent,
but COPPA does not require you to do so. If you or the parent
do not consent to the collection, use or disclosure of the student's
personal information, the student's participation in an online activity
may be limited to areas of the site where personal information is not
give consent and still say no to having your student's information
passed along to a third party.
A parent or teacher's consent
isn't necessary if the website is collecting a child's email address
simply to respond to a one-time request for information.
get new consent when information-collection practices change in a "material"
Website operators need to notify parents and get consent again if they
plan to change the kinds of information they collect, change how they
use the information, or offer the information to new and different third
parties. For example, new consent would be required if the website decides
- send information from
children to marketers of diet pills instead of only marketers of
stuffed animals, as covered in the original consent.
- give a child access
to a chat room if the original consent covered only sending a newsletter.
decide whether to approve information collection from students based
on new uses for the information.
Website operators will let you know about the need for new consent by
sending you a new notice and request. They will do this when they are
changing the terms-of-use of the information in a "material"
or significant way.
allow parents to review personal information collected from their children.
To do this, website operators must verify the identity of the requesting
ask to see the information students have submitted.
The site will ask you to verify your identity to ensure that your student's
information isn't given out improperly.
allow parents to revoke their consent, and delete information collected
from their children at the parents' request.
Parents can revoke their consent and ask that information about their
child be deleted from the site's database. When a parent revokes consent,
the website must stop collecting, using or disclosing information from
that child. The site may end a child's participation in an activity
if the information it collected was necessary for participation in the
that you may revoke your consent at any time and have your student's
To stop a website from collecting additional information from your student,
you can revoke your consent. You also may ask a site to delete any personal
information it has already collected from your student.
Many school districts
are adopting Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) to educate parents and students
about Internet use and issues of online privacy and safety, and seek parental
consent for their children's use of the Internet. For example, an AUP may tell
parents about the privacy policies of online services with which a school has
contracts and students' use of non-contract websites. It may include cautions
against children disclosing personal information to websites - such as their
full name, home or email address, and telephone number. Or it may tell parents
that the school has established classroom email accounts rather than individual
accounts if email communication is necessary between students and online services.
The bottom line for
teachers: Look around. Many websites do not require children to provide any
personal information to participate. Other sites limit their collection to personal
information that is necessary for the activity.
If you want more information
about privacy online or if you suspect a violation of the Children's Online
Privacy Protection Rule, contact the FTC, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (TDD:
202-326-2502); or online at www.ftc.gov/kidzprivacy.
|The FTC works for
the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices
in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot,
stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information
on any of 150
consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357),
or use the online
complaint form. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity
theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer
Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies U.S. and abroad.
Source: The Federal Trade Commission