Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

If you use the Internet to collect e-mail addresses and personal information from your customers, this brief article is one you cannot miss. You may think you know the rules, but giants like Hershey Foods and Sony no doubt thought they were in compliance, too, until the FTC showed up.

Many businesses that collect e-mail lists and information from customers via the Internet still are not aware of the 10-year-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, better know as COPPA. The act is a U.S. federal law that applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13 years of age. It details what the website operator must include in the privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online, including restrictions on marketing to those children.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment wasn't in compliance. and in early December 2008 agreed to pay $1 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission. Other companies charged in the past with COPPA violations include American Pop Corn Company, Mrs. Field's Cookies and Hershey Foods.

Don't get yourself in hot water and incur what may be a substantial fine. Make sure you are in compliance with COPPA. You can find the full act by clicking here.