FTC Guidelines

Legislative Activity


FTC Guidelines for Online Communication With Kids

The Federal Trade Commission has provided some guidance as to principles that Web pages should follow when they are collecting personally identifiable information from children online.

The guidance was provided in response to a complaint regarding a specific Web site. The issue posed by the complaint was that the site was used to solicit personal information from children in a deceptive fashion.

The problem was that the site collected information that it represented would enable the children to earn premiums. However, it did not disclose the information would be used for marketing purposes.

The FTC guidance said:

"It is a deceptive practice to represent that a Web site is collecting personally identifiable information from a child for a particular purpose (e.g., to earn points to redeem a premium) when the information will also be used for another purpose which parents would find material, in the absence of a clear and prominent disclosure to that effect."
The FTC cited a study indicating the type of information that parents appear to deem material:
"It is not acceptable to ask children to provide their e-mail name along with their interests and activities in order to gather information on product improvement; it is not acceptable to ask children to provide their real names and addresses when they purchase products or register to use a site and use this information only within that company; it is not acceptable to ask children to provide their real names and addresses when they purchase products or register to use a site and rent or sell those names to other companies."
The FTC guidance makes clear that the disclosures should be made to the parents and, further, described an adequate notice to parents:
"An adequate notice to parents should disclose: who is collecting the personally identifiable information, what information is being collected, its intended use(s), to whom and in what form it will be disclosed to third parties, and the means by which parents may prevent the retention, use or disclosure of the information."
Finally, in describing why these activities would constitute an unfair practice, the FTC noted:
"We believe that it would likely be an unfair practice...to collect personally identifiable information, such as name, e-mail address, home address or phone number, from children and sell or otherwise disclose such identifiable information to third parties without providing parents with adequate notice, as described above, and an opportunity to control the collection and use of the information. As we learned at the recent Privacy Workshop, the release of children's personally identifiable information to third parties creates a risk of injury or exploitation of the children so identified."
AAF members with additional questions, or who would like the complete document, can contact AAF's EVP-Government Affairs & General Counsel, Jeff Perlman, at jperlman@aaf.org.