COPPA Compliance - Protect Children Designed to help protect children, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), impacts how web sites can collect information from children. Passed into law in April of 2000, it affects every site that might have a thirteen year old or younger visitor. Even if your site is unlikely to have children visiting it or is not specifically designed for children, it makes good business sense to be aware and consider following the law anyway to “improve consumer confidence in your site.”

COPPA states that “Web sites that are directed towards children under 13 must: post their privacy policy, get parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information about a child, get new consent when the information collection practices change, allow parents to review the information collected about their child, and allow parents to revoke their consent.” Putting “parental controls” on your site to help parents understand and deal with this new responsibility previous generations never had is helpful gesture that may win you additional customers. There are generally two styles of parental controls: an independent group reviewing the questionable website or the webmaster or developer reviewing their own site. Independent group websites work by scanning sites and blocking objectionable material, but this can be problematic with generic keywords. “For example, at one point NetNanny was blocking because it mentioned the word “couple” in reference to the President and First Lady.” The second style only works if the web developer remembers to put a rating system up, based purely on his opinion. Some browsers won’t let children view sites without a rating if parental controls are turned on. Children are especially vulnerable on the internet and protecting them is a very important part of the web development process.