Want to Reduce the Likelihood of an FTC COPPA Action? Consider a Safe-Harbor Program

Published: Mar. 21, 2014

Updated: Oct. 05, 2020


After approving the kidSAFE Seal Program in February, the FTC announced last week that it would be considering another candidate – the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (“iKeepSafe”)– for the safe harbor program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule. The COPPA Rule, which the FTC enforces, is designed to prevent the collection of information from children under 13 without prior parental notice and consent. The Rule also allows the FTC to approve self-regulatory programs that set forth guidelines and requirements for compliance with COPPA. Generally, a website that participates in a safe harbor program will be reviewed and disciplined, as necessary, by the operator of the program rather than face an FTC enforcement action.

Since COPPA went into effect in April 2000, the FTC has approved 6 organization’s safe harbor programs: Aristotle Inc., the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, TrustE, PRIVO, and KidSAFE. With the revised COPPA rules taking effect last summer, it appears that industry may have a renewed interest in developing safe harbor programs, now that they know what the revised rule requires.

The FTC is inviting public comment until April 21, 2014 on four (4) questions to determine whether the iKeepSafe program meets the requirements for a safe harbor program. They are:

  1. Will the proposed safe harbor program provide “the same or greater protections for children” as those required under the COPPA rule?
  2. Are the mechanisms used to assess participants’ compliance with the safe harbor program effective?
  3. Are the incentives for participants’ compliance with the program effective?
  4. Does the program provide adequate means for resolving consumer complaints?

For more information or to submit a comment, see 16 C.F.R. Part 312: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Safe Harbor Proposed Self-Regulatory Guidelines; kidSAFE Seal Program Application for Safe Harbor (184.12 KB).