Do these questions apply to information gathered on your Web site, Parry Aftab asks? If so, learn about children's privacy laws.
Is your site directed at children or preteens? If so, children of what age?
If your site isn't directed at children, do you have lots of kids at your site? How do you know? (Do you have a form that asks for birth date or ages? Do users send you E-mails identifying themselves as children?)
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Here are some other questions that pertain:
- What information do you collect from them?
- What do you do with that information?
- Are there certain places at your site where you believe most of the child traffic exists, while there are other areas where the traffic is mainly adult?
- What do you tell children at your site about supplying information?
- Do you have interactive tools available at your site that would allow children to chat, post on a discussion board, submit E-mails, join contests, contribute stories or pictures, or send E-post cards?
- Do you require your site visitors to register before being able to access certain areas of the site or content?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, consult an experienced kids' privacy lawyer. COPPA would apply in most cases if you have answered yes to any of the above inquiries and can have serious consequences if ignored.
The latest companies to be charged with COPPA compliance issues and heavily fined by the FTC are Hershey and Mrs. Fields Cookies. These are trusted brands and not generally considered companies that would ordinarily violate child-protection laws. But COPPA implications aren't always easy to spot, even for large companies that care about children and site privacy and that have large legal teams.
It takes a very experienced kids' privacy lawyer to help you navigate the tricky waters of kids' privacy regulations. This is not the time to save money by using a lawyer inexperienced in these matters. The potential damage to your company's reputation, if parents don't trust you with their children, far outweighs any short-term savings.
Don't become the next company named in a highly publicized FTC enforcement action. Forewarned is forearmed when COPPA is involved.