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NCTA: COPPA Needs No Major Overhaul

The National Cable &
Telecommunications Association told the Federal Trade Commission that the
Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) has been working well, and
cautions the commission against making any big changes to its enforcement.

That came in comments to
the FTC, which is conducting a periodic review of how, and whether, to make any
changes to its rule implementing the law, which it has been enforcing since

COPPA ( regulates the collection and
use of personal information from and about children collected on the Internet.
NCTA argues that the rule has effectively limited the collection of personal
information from children while preserving "meaningful content" and maintaining
the integrity of children's interactive experiences on the Internet.

Groups including theCenter for Digital Democracy (CDD) and Consumers Union are arguing for somemajor changes in the rules, including expanding the definition of personal
information and applying the rule to interactive TV.

NCTA warns against
"effectively barring children's access to interactive functionality within
emerging technologies and platforms" and says it should retain its
definition of personal information and leave parental consent mechanisms alone.
CDD and company want the commission to tighten what they see as a loophole that
could allow sites to use that parental permission as a way to collect personal

NCTA says that expanding
"personal information" to include ZIP codes, gender or geo-location,
as CDD and others have requested, should not be done for both policy and legal
reasons. NCTA says it goes beyond Congress' intent that "personal
information" means info that would allow contacting a specific individual,
and that placing information associated with a specific computer on par with
that identifying a specific person would require tough and
"cost-prohibitive" parental consent requirements for many Web sites.

Among the advantages
NCTA cites to collecting such information are providing a count-down clock to the
premiere of a childrens show (ZIP code), or offering activities or information
tailored to boys or girls (gender).

As to interactive TV,
NCTA asks the commission to give the technologies time to develop before
deciding how to apply COPPA to online access via new media to avoid stifling

"The Commission
must take great care to ensure that it does not expand the COPPA requirements
in ways that discourage development of effective, safe, and creative
interactive media products that may have great value for children and their
families," said NCTA.

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.