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FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Modifications to Video Game Industry Self-Regulatory Program Approved under the COPPA Safe Harbor Program

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposals to modify a video game industry self-regulatory program that the FTC approved in 2001 under the agency’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.

The changes are being sought by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and would modify the organization’s COPPA safe harbor program, which is aimed at ensuring compliance with FTC regulations and guidance related to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires, among other things, that operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under the age of 13, or general audience websites and online services that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13, must post comprehensive privacy policies on their sites, notify parents about their information practices, and obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any personal information from children under the age of 13.

The FTC’s COPPA Rule includes a “safe harbor” provision designed to encourage increased industry self-regulation in this area. Under this provision, industry groups and others may ask the Commission to approve self-regulatory guidelines that implement the protections of the Rule. Companies that comply with the FTC-approved guidelines receive safe harbor from agency enforcement action under the Rule.

In a notice to be published in the Federal Register shortly, the FTC is seeking comment on modifications proposed by ESRB to its COPPA safe harbor program. Among the proposed modifications, ESRB seeks to amend the definition of “personal information and data” to track the additional COPPA Rule guidance the FTC released in October 2017 related to audio recordings. Other proposed modifications include the elimination of a requirement that new participants in ESRB’s safe harbor program complete an initial self-assessment questionnaire before joining.

Those seeking to comment should follow the directions in the Federal Register notice and will have 30 days to comment until May 9, 2018.

NOTE: Publication of this Federal Register notice does not indicate Commission approval of the proposed modifications to ESRB’s safe harbor program.