Filings are due to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today as part of its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the COPPA rule that the FTC devised and enforces. I didn’t have time to pen as much as I wanted, but I did submit a short filing to the agency in the matter based on some of my previous work both with Berin Szoka and on my own. Here’s the executive summary for my filing:
It goes without saying that the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is complicated law and rule. When considering the rule and proposals to amend it, it is easy to get lost in the weeds and ignore the bigger picture. That would be a mistake. There are broader, more important questions that need to be asked as part of the Federal Trade Commission’s effort to expand this regulatory regime. These questions involve not only the costs of increased regulation for online business interests, but the impact of expanded regulation on market structure, competition, and innovation. More importantly, these questions cut to the core of whether the public (including children) will be served with more and better digital innovations in the future. There is no free lunch. Regulation—even well-intentioned regulation like COPPA—is not a costless exercise. There are profound trade-offs for online content and culture that must always be considered.
Whatever one thinks about the effectiveness or sensibility of the COPPA regulatory model for the Web 1.0 world, it is clear that the regime is being strained by the unforeseen realities of the Web 2.0 world of hyper-ubiquitous connectivity and user-generated content creation and sharing. The digital genie cannot be put back in the bottle. While COPPA may continue to have a marginal role to play in this rapidly evolving world, that role will likely be increasingly limited by the inherent realities of the information age.
Entire filing can be found on the Mercatus website, on SSRN, or via Scribd [Also embedded below in a Scribd reader.] [FILING] Comments of Adam Thierer – Mercatus Center – FTC COPPA 2011 Ammendments