CDD Sues FTC For Access to Documents

The Center for Digital Democracy has filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Federal Trade Commmission alleging that it has wrongfully withheld records about online safe harbor programs that CDD sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

CDD is looking for annual reports to the FTC from various safe harbor programs under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

The FTC's COPPA Rule (enforcing the COPPA law) requires operators of Web sites and online services directed to children under 13 to "provide notice and obtain permission from a child’s parents before collecting personal information from that child." The safe harbor allows industry  to develop its own COPPA oversight programs, known as 'safe harbor, programs that the FTC vets. If the FTC approves, participating in the program is presumed to be compliance with COPPA restrictions on that personal information collection.

CDD has long questioned the effectiveness of the voluntary industry safe harbor programs. "The commission cannot look the other way on this issue, even if some of the Safe Harbor companies prefer to operate in a non-transparent manner," CDD said earlier this month. 

CDD made the request July 2, which FTC signaled on July 8 it had received and was processing, according to CDD. On July 25, CDD said the FTC responded that it would not be ale to meet the statutory 20-business day" deadline for responding to the request and that it was extending the deadline due to "unusual circumstances."

Whatever those were, CDD now says it has yet to hear back from the FTC. CDD says that is a violation of the statutory time limit for processing FOIA requests and wants the court to force the FTC to produce the requested records, disclose them with all fees waived, pay CDD's attorneys fees, and any other remedy the court thinks appropriate.

FTC spokesperson Cheryl Warner had no comment on the complaint.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.