Update (11/22/11): The FTC extended the deadline for comments on the proposed COPPA reforms until December 23, 2011, citing the complexity of the questions and issues raised by the proposed amendments. The original comment deadline was November 28, 2011.
The Federal Trade Commission recently announced a set of proposed revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) which would expand the Act’s application to a greater number of websites and online services. COPPA requires that website operators notify parents and obtain parental consent before they collect, use, or disclose personal information from individuals under 13 years of age. Specifically, the proposed rules would expand the definition of personal information to include so-called “persistent identifiers,” which represent unique user identification information obtained for purposes other than for the support of the internal operations of a website or online service. The new rules would also extend COPPA protections to photographs, videos, or audio files that include a child’s image or voice. The FTC will consider a wider range of factors, including whether a website includes child celebrities and music content, when determining whether the site or online service is directed to children. The proposed rules rejected a number of alternative means of obtaining parental consent proposed by stakeholders and declined to establish a safe harbor for websites and online services which follow best practices guidelines issued by the Direct Marketing Association.
A K&L Gates Client Alert providing a detailed summary of the FTC’s proposed COPPA revisions and an analysis of the potential impacts of the reforms on websites and online services may be found here.
Earlier this month, the House passed H.R. 1002, the “Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011,” which would impose a temporary, five-year moratorium on new taxes or fees that discriminate against mobile services. The bill, which was introduced by Congressman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) and had the support of 235 cosponsors, passed by voice vote under suspension of the rules.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently announced an agreement with the mobile wireless industry by which it has agreed to abide by new voluntary guidelines to prevent “bill shock” through the delivery of advance warning messages to subscribers at risk of incurring high charges on their monthly mobile service bills. Bill shock is a term used by the FCC to describe when a consumer claims a sudden, unexpected increase in their monthly bill, usually as the result of exceeding limits on voice, data, or messaging plans. As a result of the agreement, the FCC suspended its plans to adopt new wireless billing regulations that it proposed last year, but warned that the Commission would not hesitate to adopt regulations in the future if the industry self-regulation proves ineffective.
By Susan Altman
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in its October 3, 2011 decision in Suzlon Energy Ltd v. Microsoft Corporation, has taken another step in defining the rights of people to protect their emails from being disclosed in civil court proceedings. The question before the Suzlon court was whether a party can require a U.S. electronic communication service provider to produce emails stored on a U.S. server for the account of a non-U.S. national without regard to the safeguards and restrictions imposed by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). The court answered with a clear “no,” stating that the protections of the ECPA against unrestricted disclosure of emails by an electronic communication service provider apply to non-U.S. nationals as well as to U.S. citizens.
The FCC’s Media Bureau announced the following comment deadlines for the FCC’s recently released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to adopt closed captioning rules for video programming delivered by Internet Protocol: Comments: October 18, 2011. Reply Comments: October 28, 2011. As we reported previously, the NPRM proposes closed captioning requirements mandated by the Twenty-First Century Video Communications and Accessibility Act of 2010 (“CVAA”). The new rules would apply to a broader range of devices, including mobile devices, and content providers would be required to meet a strict schedule based upon the type of content captioned. Notably, under the NPRM, the FCC’s closed captioning rules would no longer be restricted to television receivers or to those devices with screens larger than 13 inches, an exception originally established in the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990. The CVAA requires the FCC adopt these rules by January 12, 2012.
In a major step forward for what one telecom observer called “the defining saga” of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s tenure, the Office of Management and Budget approved the information collection requirements of the controversial 2010 Open Internet Order. The approved provisions concern new network management disclosures required from broadband service providers and formal complaint procedures under the net neutrality rules. The new rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register in one to three weeks and will go into effect 60 days later.
As Hurricane Irene threatens the Eastern seaboard with the potential to cause billions of dollars in damages, the FCC’s International Bureau released a public notice providing procedures for emergency communications in areas affected by the impending severe weather. Specifically, emergency requests for special temporary authority (“STA”) for satellite earth and space stations as well as submarine cables may be submitted by letter, e-mail, or telephone to be handled on an expedited basis by the International Bureau. Hurricane-related STA requests will be subject to the Commission’s “permit-but-disclose” ex parte rules. The International Bureau also designated special phone and e-mail contacts for satellite station and submarine cable operations during the emergency.
The FCC issued a public notice last week announcing that FCC licensees and various types of FCC-regulated service providers must pay their 2011 annual regulatory fees to the Commission no later than September 14, 2011. Entities owing fees must ensure their payments are received by September 14th to avoid incurring a 25% late-payment fee. The annual regulatory fees are mandated by Congress under Section 9 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, which requires the FCC to collect regulatory fees to recover the regulatory costs associated with the agency’s activities. Regulated entities can find additional information regarding the assessment of fees and payment methods at a special section of the FCC’s website.