The FTC’s COPPA Conundrum: Ambiguities in the Rule and a Death of Authoritative Guidance Leave the Agency Vulnerable to Legal Challenges

This article was originally published by the ABA’s ANTITRUST magazine in its Summer 2022 issue.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Federal Trade Commission’s COPPA-enforcing rule have increasing relevance for all businesses that interact directly with consumers online—including companies that do not regard themselves as marketing directly to children. Both the FTC and state Attorneys General are active in enforcing COPPA, and companies can often be caught off guard by government inquiries scrutinizing their compliance.

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ICO Publishes Draft New Guidance on PETs

On 7 September 2022, the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) published draft guidance (“Guidance”) on privacy-enhancing technologies (“PETs”). It is hoped that the Guidance will help organizations have the confidence to utilize PETs to develop innovative applications without compromising on privacy concerns, or trust. The Guidance is divided into two sections: (i) how can PETs help with data protection compliance; and (ii) what are PETs. We consider the key learning points from the Guidance below. 

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U.S. FERC Proposes Revisions to Cybersecurity Incentives for Utilities

On September 22, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) regarding Incentives for Advanced Cybersecurity Investment, requesting comment on proposed revisions to regulations implementing the Federal Power Act (FPA). The revisions would provide incentive-based rate treatments for the transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce and the sale of electric energy at wholesale in interstate commerce by utilities for certain voluntary cybersecurity investments. The NOPR was issued in response to a Congressional mandate set forth in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which directed FERC to establish cybersecurity incentives that would encourage investments by utilities in advanced cybersecurity technology and participation in cybersecurity threat information sharing programs. This NOPR replaces a prior cybersecurity incentives NOPR from December 2020.

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FTC Defends Expansive Privacy and Data Security ANPR at Public Forum

The FTC continues its defense of the wide-reaching Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on “Commercial Surveillance and Data Security” that the Commission, by a 3-2 vote, issued in August. (See the supporting statements of Chair Lina Khan and Commissioners Rebecca Slaughter, and Alvaro Bedoya, and the dissenting statements of Commissioners Christine Wilson and Noah Phillips.)

On Thursday, September 8, the FTC hosted a public forum on the notice, featuring remarks by Chair Khan, Commissioner Bedoya, and panels featuring guests representing industry and consumer interests.

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The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act Dramatically Expands Business Obligations

On September 2, 2022, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (the “Act”) (effective July 1, 2024) was passed by the California legislature, and on September 15, 2022 was signed into law by Governor Newsom.  This Act dramatically expands business obligations and will force entities that provide an online service, product, or feature that is “likely to be accessed by children” (“Product”) to implement stringent privacy settings for users under 18. It aligns in many respects with the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code, which passed in 2020. Together, these laws represent a significant shift in the regulatory landscape of children’s digital services.

The overarching policy of the Act is to require such entities to prioritize the best interests of children when developing and implementing their services.  The Act implements this policy through a number of stringent requirements, including using language in privacy notices that is age-appropriate, undertaking physical and mental well-being impact assessments for existing and new products and services, and implementing stringent requirements on such entities use of the data as a default.

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Regulatory Update: NAIC Summer 2022 National Meeting

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) held its Summer 2022 National Meeting (Summer Meeting) August 9–13, 2022. This post summarizes the highlights from this meeting in addition to interim meetings held in lieu of taking place during the Summer Meeting. Highlights include a proposal for a new consumer privacy protections model law, continued discussion of considerations related to private equity ownership of insurers, continued development of accounting principles and investment limitations related to certain types of bonds and structured securities, and initiatives to address climate risks in the insurance sector.

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Big California Privacy News: Legislative and Enforcement Updates

Privacy never sleeps in California.  In recent days and as California’s legislative session comes to a close, there have been a number of significant legislative and regulatory developments in the state, each of which will likely (again) change the privacy landscape in California and, by extension, the rest of the country.  For businesses operating in California or whose websites, products or services reach California residents, these changes mean new compliance obligations, some of which could require significant investments of time and resources.  The impact of these changes highlight once again how the United States lacks a consistent national policy on privacy that could be set by a comprehensive federal privacy law. 

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