Submission Number: 561789-00005
Received: 8/14/2012 11:41:42 AM
Commenter: Lorraine Akemann
Organization: Moms With Apps
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: 16 CFR Part 312; Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule; Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; Project No. P104503
Attachments: No Attachments
My name is Lorraine Akemann and I currently blog about the apps for kids marketplace at Moms With Apps, which is an endeavor that started after launching my own kids' apps on the iTunes App Store. I have read the proposed revisions to the COPPA rule and here are my comments:
As a kid-friendly mobile app developer who creates downloadable software for kids on mobile devices, I was pleased to read in the Revised Proposal that the FTC recognizes the need to use the persistent identifiers necessary for analytics data to support internal operations. However, most app developers depend upon third party software for analytics, so the the revised definition of "operator" to include integrated services might pose some practical challenges for the app developers to find an appropriate 3rd party analytics service for the children's market. It's not an insurmountable challenge, and will result in either market opportunity for new COPPA-versed mobile services, or it will encourage developers to create their own proprietary solutions, instead of using integrated code from 3rd parties in their products.
Also, reading through the legislation I assumed that "online service" included "mobile app". According to Apple's website there are over 500,000 apps in the Apple App Store, and within that App Store there are dedicated sections for children: Apps for Kids, Education, Games/Kids, and Books are just a few example categories from the app store where content directed at children under 13 is marketed and sold. However, upon reading section V (A) "Number of Respondents", the estimate for new "operators" is 500 that will likely be covered as a result of the proposed modifications. This estimate caused me to question my logic: does "online service" pertain to "app", or "app store that sells apps"? This contextual question can change the interpretation of how the legislation applies to independent app developers who create apps for kids.
Section VII - Definition of On Whose Behalf Such Information Is Collected or Maintained
1a) Is the proposed language clear?
The proposed language of terms like "operator", "website" and "online service" are unclear in their relation to individual apps. Does an "app" pertain to "online service", or to a "downloadable software kit"? Or rather, is an App Store an "online service"?
Section VII - Definition of Web Site or Online Service Directed to Children
3) Is the newly proposed paragraph clear to provide guidance to an operator?
It's unclear until app developers are certain about their area of responsibility. For example, is the "Apps For Kids" section of Apple's iTunes App Store an online service directed toward children, and is Apple the operator? Are the "users" the consumers who purchase and download the apps, or the kids who play the apps? Knowing the specific role and responsibility of the mobile app developer in terms of where they fall on the "online service" and "operator" definitions will help them assess whether the guidance is clear.
5) Is there currently technology available to signal that sites or services are directed to children?
I am not aware of any technology currently in use, but would recommend that with the explosion of kids apps on tablets, app stores should standardize on an age or content rating system to make these designations easier for parents, consumers, and app developers.
Section VII - Definition of Personal Information: Persistent Identifiers and Support for Internal Operations
7a) Is the proposed language for broadening the definition of "support for internal operations" clear?
Yes, very clear. The FTC included "maintain or analyze the functioning of the Web site or online service" which makes sense to an app developer who uses analytics to monitor how their app is performing with the intentions of product improvement.