Call to Action: Weigh In On Changes to COPPA

A federal law protecting children under the age of 13, The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (or COPPA), is about to be weakened  by the FTC.  Parents, teachers, those who care about children should pay attention. If you think parents should have a say in how their young child’s information is collected and shared and used on the internet– NOW is the time to speak up.

If you are not familiar with COPPA, this November 3, 1999 notice in The Federal Register summarizes the intent and purpose of COPPA when it was passed. Below are a few excerpts

“Congress enacted the COPPA to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in connection with the collection, use, or disclosure of personally identifiable information from and about children on the Internet.”

“The Rule implements the requirements of the COPPA by requiring operators of websites or online services directed to children and operators of websites or online services who have actual knowledge that the person from whom they seek information is a child

(1) to post prominent links on their websites to a notice of how they collect, use, and/or disclose personal information from children;

(2) with certain exceptions, to notify parents that they wish to collect information from their children and obtain parental consent prior to collecting, using, and/or disclosing such information;

(3) not to condition a child’s participation in online activities on the provision of more personal information than is reasonably necessary to participate in the activity;

(4) to allow parents the opportunity to review and/or have their children’s information deleted from the operator’s database and to prohibit further collection from the child; and

(5) to establish procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information they collect from children. As directed by the COPPA, the Rule also provides a safe harbor for operators following Commission-approved self-regulatory guidelines.” https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1999-11-03/pdf/99-27740.pdf

Bottom line, the FTC has made changes to COPPA guidance in the past but is now proposing several potentially big changes to COPPA, including removing parent consent for when a child’s school asks the student to use online apps and platforms (edtech) such as ClassDojo, iReady, Google, YouTube, etc. See here (Section E. Question 23 covers the edtech consent exception) Exceptions to Verifiable Parental Consent:

“Should the Commission consider a specific exception to parental consent for the use of education technology used in the schools? Should this exception have similar requirements to the “school official exception” found in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”)…?”

*Speaking of FERPA, we know that FERPA was also weakened in 2008 and 2011, and  removed parent consent before collecting and sharing student information with researchers, companies, contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties.  Gutting FERPA by removing parent consent usurped parental rights; we should absolutely not make that same mistake by removing parent consent in COPPA. 

The FTC is accepting public comment on these proposed changes to COPPA; the deadline to comment is Dec 9, 2019. Below is a short, easy to share CALL TO ACTION with links on how to comment and how to contact your Congressperson.  Please submit a comment and do SHARE this CALL TO ACTION widely.  Thank you.

Click the link below to download the CALL TO ACTION.

12 thoughts on “Call to Action: Weigh In On Changes to COPPA

  1. Student information has been hacked by Edmoto, and sold to a Chinese firm in NV. There is virtually no protection for students when on their iPads, computers, phones, etc. when at school nor when bringing these devices home.
    The Gates Foundation writes the curriculum, in NV, Warren Buffett owns the exclusive sale of electronic products at an inflated rate, the 12 states who take the SBAC test companies go laughing all the way to the bank.
    No parental notification nor knowledge of this either.

    1. Are you aware that parents can Prohibit their children’s online activity at school? They must simply send a written notification and not sign consent forms.

      1. How does that work if parents refuse? Do kids get zeros in the work?? There is so much they do on computers I don’t know what the alternative is! We already refuse benchmarks, NWEA, state standardized tests..I just don’t know how to opt out of computer-related things without getting zeros.

  2. We need to protect our children. There is never a reason that their private information should be shared.

  3. Once again, parents have the absolute right to PROHIBIT their children from online activity at school. All they need to do is send a written notice stating same and do not sign consent forms. This eliminates all of the problems with data collection on students. Please advocate this solution. Tell parents to understand and use their constitutional rights or lose them. Show parents that they have an obligation to protect their children and be educated about what goes on in the classroom.

  4. It’s one thing to *say* you have a constitutional right to opt out, but in reality, parents and children face intense pressure and retaliation for asking to opt out of edtech.

    Parents who have asked to opt their kids out of Gsuite: gmail/Googledocs/Google Classroom have been told that their child would not be able to attend the school, others have been told it would be impossible. Try sending your 3rd grader to school with the declaration I don’t want to use XX online assessment or app. That child is pressured to use the online tool because there often is no alternative and because teachers are also pressured to use edtech tools. Parents who have tried to opt out of NWEA assessment have gotten threatening letters from Superintendents, and state agencies. Other parents have been told if their child doesn’t take the online iReady test, or similar, their child cannot graduate to the next class. Parents and student’s shouldn’t be placed in this situation.

    Currently COPPA does not preclude schools from acting as intermediaries between operators and schools in the notice and consent process, or from serving as the parents’ agent , but the FTC is considering going a step further and removing parent consent altogether for edtech: ” Should the Commission consider a specific exception to parental consent for the use of education technology used in the schools?”

    A condition of attending public education should not be handing over your rights.

    1. What state you are in Cheri? You are preaching to the choir. We experienced all of those things and more because we were an opt-out family. Years later, the District has amended their policies to align with parents Constitutional rights on Opting out. In theory, schools are no longer able to retaliate against families. I can be accomplished with a well-worded notification to the District and school. I could provide some resources for that, if needed. Also, regarding COPPA and FTC rules: this assumes that parents and students have consented to online activity at school. Without that specific initial consent, there is no standing for COPPA and FTC to carry out the program or seek out the student for participation in the program.

      1. correction: there is no standing for operators to carry out their activities seeking student participation in the program.

  5. NO!
    This strips away rights for parents to know and keep their children’s privacy safe online.

  6. While the school may be empowered to act as “parent agent” with regard to utilizing “operator websites” and providing consent for student participation in online technology offerings, such authority would only derive from initial direct, informed consent and agreement between the school district, the parent and student (for internet acceptable use) while the student utilizes District ISP, browser, equipment, etc. This consent cannot be compelled. Parents and students are not required to participate in internet-based educational programs. Alternatives must be made available.

  7. As most people aren’t aware, in many districts Parents have NO say and do NOT have to provide consent for Edtech, even for those companies that collect personal data from 5 year-olds, like schools that issue Google Accounts to pre-schoolers. You can, if you know it’s available, opt out of certain portions of the internet but cannot others, including Visible Measures, a third party advertiser. Without strong protections , like COPPA, our children are at great risk. Everybody should demand our kids protections.

    1. Your assertion is false. As I mentioned, the only way a school can assign a Google Account to a pre-schooler is AFTER the parent has signed an “Internet Acceptable Use” form, or if no form is presented, AFTER mailing a notification to the District (certified) that they Opt their child out of ANY online activity, unless under the direct supervision of the parent. As advocates for our children we need to ask sites such as “truthinamericaneducation” to publish all the facts, not just information that seems formidable to parents.

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