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Understanding COPPA, FERPA and the“Age 13+” Restrictions on Many Websites By Mark E. Moran, Founder & CEO
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Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act 1998 U.S. federal law, administered by FTC Requires commercial websites that are directed at children to obtain parental consent before collecting information about children under 13 Only for-profit websites can violate COPPA An educator or student cannot violate COPPA unless they host a for-profit website
Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act 1974 law applying to schools receiving federal funds; enforced by Department of Education. Provides that schools can’t disclose information without parent consent, except “directory information” (e.g., name, address, D.O.B.).
Schools Permitted to Give ConsentUnder COPPA, Must Consider FERPA “COPPA allows, but does not require, schools to act as agents for parents in providing consent for the online collection of students’ personal information within the school context…. In this regard, schools also must consider their obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Many schools have implemented Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) or other measures to educate parents and students about in- school Internet use.” - FTC FAQ, #54¹.
COPPA in Practice: “You must be 13 years or older to use this service” To avoid being considered a site targeted at kids, many websites and Web 2.0 tools simply ban children under 13. This ban doesn’t necessarily mean the website’s content is not suited for younger kids. More likely, it means the website doesn’t want to be burdened with complying with COPPA. The ban does not protect children’s privacy or safety, it just minimizes the burden and legal exposure of the website. Kids under 13 who use the site anyway, and parents or teachers who encourage them to do so, are not violating any law; they are merely failing to comply with the Terms of Service, a form of contract imposed by Websites on their users.
COPPA Teaches Students to Lie?“COPPA is well-intended but its implementation andcultural uptake have been a failure” - danah boyd² Parents misunderstand, resent under-13 rules as telling them how to parent. Many parents and teachers tell children to lie about their age; this is not a violation of law, but a violation of the contract between the site and the user, usually called “terms of service.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/12/technology/internet/12underage.html Many teachers refuse to tell students to lie.
Possible Solutions: Write to Companies“Ask Questions and Initiate Change.” - Brian Mull, November Learning 4 Write to the company that provides the Web service; it may might change its policy or give specific permission for Under 13s to use service under teachers’ direction. Kathy Westerlund, MI teacher, wrote to Animoto, which expressly gave permission for her under 13s to use it: “To ensure that your younger students are protected, we suggest that you come up with dummy e-mails for them that are under your control. This way you can monitor the activities under their Animoto accounts.”
Possible Solutions: Write to Companies Google response to an educator asking about “Over 13” restriction on Google Apps: “Per the Google Apps Education Edition Agreement, any school administering Google Apps Education Edition acknowledges and agrees that it is solely responsible for compliance with COPPA, including, but not limited to, obtaining parental consent…” http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/apps-education/thread?tid=22890d7d967855da&hl=en
Possible Solution: Students Don’tSupply Personal Info, FERPA N/A Use Teacher-controlled email accounts. MailCatch offers “disposable” email accounts. “GMAIL +” accounts don’t reveal student info and teacher controls account http://help.edublogs.org/2009/02/27/creating-student-accounts-using-one-gmail-account/ Re: the “Under 13” issue in Terms of Service, consider whether a teacher can reasonably conclude that he or she is the “co-user” who created the account.
Possible Solution: Get Parents’ Consent“We should explain to parents the tools we want to use, why wewant to use them and what safety features are within. Then weshould ask them for written permission.” - Brian Mull, November Learning Broad acceptable use policies (AUPs) arguably are not adequate to obtain knowing consent. A written consent for each specific tool is legally more valid, and it also may keep parents informed and involved. In any event, it addresses the FERPA issue.
Works Cited:1. Federal Trade Commission. “Frequently Asked Questions about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.” October 7, 2008. http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.shtm#schools and How to Protect Kids Privacy Online: A Guide for Teachers http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/tech/tec10.shtm2. boyd, danah. “How COPPA Fails Parents, Educators, Youth.” DMLcentral: June 10, 2010. http://dmlcentral.net/blog/danah-boyd/how-coppa-fails-parents-educators-youth3. Kang, Cecilia. “Report Urges More Education about Online Safety.” WashingtonPost.com Post Tech Blog: June 4, 2010. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2010/06/online_safety_report_says_educ.html4. Mull, Brian. “Are Kids Under 13 Being Left Out? Maybe Not.” The November Learning Blog: January 19, 2010.http://novemberlearning.com/are-kids-under-13-being-left-out-maybe-not/