Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): A Comprehensive Guide

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): A Comprehensive Guide
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The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a critical piece of legislation that was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2000. The primary aim of COPPA is to address concerns about children's access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet.

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What is COPPA?

COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued rules implementing COPPA in early 2001 and provided updates to those rules in 2011.

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What Does COPPA Require?

Schools and libraries subject to COPPA may not receive the discounts offered by the E-rate program unless they certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).

Before adopting this Internet safety policy, schools and libraries must provide reasonable notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposal.

Schools subject to COPPA have two additional certification requirements:

  1. Their Internet safety policies must include monitoring the online activities of minors.
  2. As required by the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, they must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.

What Does COPPA Address?

Schools and libraries subject to COPPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:

  • Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet.
  • The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications.
  • Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online.
  • Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors.
  • Measures restricting minors' access to materials harmful to them.

Schools and libraries must certify they are in compliance with COPPA before they can receive E-rate funding.

Who Does COPPA Apply To?

COPPA does not apply to schools and libraries receiving discounts only for telecommunications service only. An authorized person may disable the blocking or filtering measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes. COPPA does not require the tracking of Internet use by minors or adults.

Conclusion

COPPA plays a crucial role in protecting children from harmful content online and ensuring that their personal information is handled responsibly. It is essential for any organization that collects personal information from children under 13 to understand and comply with COPPA's requirements.

For more information about COPPA or to apply for E-rate funding, you can contact the Universal Service Administrative Company's (USAC) Schools and Libraries Division (SLD). SLD also operates a client service bureau to answer questions at 1-888-203-8100 or via email through the SLD website.