FTC retains parental-notification benchmark


Saying that "secure electronic technology" is not yet widely available at "a
reasonable cost," the Federal Trade Commission has extended for three years --
until April 2005 -- its sliding scale for determining whether a children's Web
site has obtained parental consent for information it gathers from users. It had
originally been slated to expire Sunday night.

In connection with the second anniversary of the Children's Online Privacy
Protection Act, the FTC also published a survey of 144 children's Web sites.
Although the survey found that nearly 90 percent had privacy policies, compared
with 24 percent in 1998, it also found that only about one-half followed
COPPA-specific notification requirements.

Fifty sites have been sent warnings that they are not in compliance with

Finally, Ohio Arts (Etch-A-Sketch) has settled with the FTC over charges that
it collected personal information about children through its Web site without
parental permission. The company will pay $35,000.

The FTC had charged that Ohio Arts collected names, mailing addresses, electronic-mail
addresses, age and birthday for its "Etchy's Birthday Club."

Although the company did direct children to "get your parents' permission
first," the FTC held that was not sufficient.

The agency also charged that the company had collected more information "than
was reasonably necessary" to participate in the club.