The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved The Integrity Children's Privacy Compliance Program, designed by Aristotle International, as a "safe harbor" program under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) on Friday. The COPPA rule grants websites that target viewers ages 13 and under permission to collect their personal information as long as parents are notified and approve the exchange of data. Another clause states that each website must post comprehensive privacy policies on their sites to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to be informed.
What is supposed to be most advantageous about The Integrity Children's Privacy Compliance Program is that it "gives companies more responsible and commercially reasonable ways to obtain parental consent for children online. This innovative application of technology obtains a parent's clear, unambiguous consent to help children safely enjoy age-appropriate websites." It is predicted that Integrity will empower sites that wish to focus on children, especially virtual world and game environments without necessitating the use of a credit card.
Site operators felt that this program was crucial because they were relying on e-mail plus, a tool that allows publishers to get parental consent after sending an email to the parent and receiving another email from the parent confirming consent; this process tended to result in considerable delays. Fortunately for overburdened site operators, the commission ruled that "e-mail plus has outlived its usefulness and should no longer be a recognized approach to parental consent under the Rule." Thanks to the efforts of Aristotle International, there are more ways for sites to obtain legal parental consent; online and offline mechanisms include real-time face-to-face verification of parents via Skype or similar videoconferencing technologies. This enables parents to state whether or not they grant their child permission to interact with a site and also protects corporations from facing legal risks and problematic brand issues.
Safe harbor approval was granted because Integrity afforded children same or greater protections than they received under the Rule, offered "effective incentives for Members' compliance, and it contains court mandated paths to independently assess Members' compliance.
Hopefully these new approved methods for sites to communicate with children will generate discussions between parents and their children about internet safety and conduct.