FTC told that iKeepSafe proposal on children's privacy will not ensure COPPA safeguards

Statement from Hudson Kingston, CDD Legal Director:

CDD filed comments with the FTC on a proposed new COPPA safe harbor that would be run by iKeepSafe. The COPPA Rule allows entities that want to become a safe harbor to apply to formally certify that “operators” covered by the law are complying with all of its requirements. As such, it is imperative that each safe harbor ensure compliance by participating companies. CDD’s comments outline two major deficiencies in the application: the application, far from proving that the safe harbor will be properly staffed and show the requisite expertise and technical skill needed to do the job, suggests that this safe harbor is incapable of doing the job, since it does not demonstrate necessary expertise and institutional capacity to apply COPPA; secondly, the application is not as stringent as the COPPA Rule because it weakens operators’ legal duties and potentially muddles key regulatory standards. Such changes in operators’ COPPA duties making them less stringent or ambiguous suggests a safe harbor could be planning to provide lesser protection than the law—the COPPA Rule forbids such backsliding. “FTC should not approve safe harbor applications unless it is absolutely clear that the proposed safe harbor will provide equal or better protection of children’s information than the COPPA Rule, and this proposed system would fall far short of the standard,” said CDD’s legal director, Hudson Kingston. “Unless the existing and new safe harbors are held to an exacting standard the law will be undercut by inadequate enforcement—as the agency responsible for COPPA, FTC must not allow self regulation to work against its intended purpose.”

and from Jeff Chester: Beyond the technical matters we raise in the attached comments, I also want to point out a few other issues. First, iKeepSafe claims on its website they “partner” (link is external)with the Federal Trade Commission. Here’s what they say:

NATIONAL GOVERNMENT PARTNERS FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC) iKeepSafe is a contributor to the FTC’s NetCetera and a member of the Ad Council’s Internet Safety Coalition.

As if somehow the Ad Council is the same as the FTC! Such a statement is misleading to parents. It’s also noteworthy to point to their “corporate partners,” (link is external) many of whom are major digital data collection companies with a stake in the youth targeting industry. They include AOL, (link is external) ATT, (link is external) Comcast, (link is external) Facebook (link is external), Fox (link is external), Google (link is external), McDonald’s (link is external), Verizon (link is external)and Yahoo (link is external).