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For Immediate Release
On May 1, 2000 at 9:45 A.M. EDT

Contact: Gregg R. Zegarelli, Esq., (412) 765-0401.

PRESS RELEASE: Child Online Privacy Act Started April 21, 2000.

Dot.Coms, Website Owners, Online Services Beware New FTC Cyberspace Law.

Pittsburgh – Parents and website owners, read on. On April 21, 2000, the Child Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA"), became effective. Websites and online services that target children, or which knowingly solicit personal information from children, must comply. A child is anyone less than 13 years old. To comply, an operator must obtain parental consent PRIOR to collecting, using, and disclosing the child’s personal information.

According to Gregg Zegarelli, a technology attorney in the Pittsburgh/CMU region who represents high-tech companies, Dot.Coms and Internet Service Providers, "COPPA is a great victory for parents—for the first time, [it] gives them control over how the Internet deals with their children. And, it’s really bad news for the ‘Hey kids, want some candy?’, types of websites."

But, for the vast majority of "innocent" online services and websites, the reaction is not so clear. Here’s why: it can be very difficult to know whether a website is targeted to children less than 13 years old. For example, a teenage clothing store, sporting goods store, or even a cigarette company. Regardless, the law still applies to any website if the operator "knows" that it collects information from children. And, there are other issues, such as what an operator should do when parents disagree, and how to keep consents updated.

According to Zegarelli, "[I]f your website collects user information in any manner whatsoever, then you need to make absolutely sure that you understand this new law." He adds, "Any website operator soliciting the information, but without parental consents already in place, may be unintentionally violating the law. An excuse like, ‘I didn’t know the kid was less than 13, the kid’s e-mail grammar looked 18’ may not cut it. It’s a serious issue for e-commerce. Qualifying and authenticating the source of electronic data has always been problematic in cyberspace."

Zegarelli says, "COPPA is a force. You need to work around it, or work through it. First, you must evaluate whether the law applies to your website or online service. If so, it’s crucial to implement a business process to obtain parental consents. It’s not easy or inexpensive, but it’s the law."

Contact Gregg R. Zegarelli, Esq., Zegarelli Associates, Allegheny Building, 12th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1616, (412) 765-0401, http://www.zegarelli.com, info@zegarelli.com.



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