Virtual Solutions of the Amended Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule

June 1, 2013

Virtual K–12 education, roughly defined as electronically-mediated teaching and learning for children, has expanded dramatically in the past decade. In December 2012, the Federal Trade Commission approved its first amendments to its original Rule implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. These changes aim to strengthen the regulation over website operators and application developers to collect personal information from children under thirteen with verifiable parental consent. The amended Rule, however, will likely only offer “virtual” solutions to problems of children’s online privacy threats. The amended Rule fails, for instance, to clarify educators’ roles and responsibilities as parental surrogates in protecting children’s privacy in virtual education—an issue identified as early as the original implementation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This article considers some of the existing realities and vulnerabilities of children engaged in virtual education and potential legal problems, as well as proposed solutions.