In 1998, Congress passed the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in response to growing concerns over the dissemination of children's personal information over the Internet. Under COPPA's provisions, websites are prohibited from collecting personal information from children under the age of twelve without "verifiable parental consent." While in theory COPPA sought to provide parents the control over their children's personal information on the Internet, its practical effect causes websites to attempt to ban children through age screening mechanisms that remain largely ineffective.Twelve years after the passage of COPPA, the landscape of the Internet is dramatically changed. Social networking websites like Facebook, with over 500 million users, provide children with vast opportunities to share their personal information online. Moreover, as COPPA only seeks to protect children under the age of twelve, many of Facebook's most vulnerable demographicteenagers ages thirteen to eighteenfall outside its provisions. COPPA must be revised so that children, teenagers, and parents are provided adequate notice of the uses of personal information online (especially with respect to social networking websites) and a meaningful opportunity to consent to those practices.
Lauren A. Matecki,
Update: COPPA is Ineffective Legislation! Next Steps for Protecting Youth Privacy Rights in the Social Networking Era,
Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y.