CARU East Coast Conference Covers COPPA Reform, Tackles Critical Issues in Advertising to Kids

October 11, 2011 | The Children’s Advertising and Review Unit’s (CARU) East coast conference, “Marketing to Children: Privacy, Food and Digital Media” was held on October 5, 2011 in New York City, to provide updates and information on the children’s advertising industry as well as an overview of the recently proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, which gives parents control over what personal information websites may collect from children under 13.

The conference opened with a panel called “Spotlight on the FTC – COPPA Rule Update and Beyond” which focused on the latest developments in the proposed changes to the COPPA Rule and recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforcement actions.  As outlined in a press release issued by the FTC last month, amendments to COPPA were proposed to ensure that the privacy of children online remains protected as technologies evolve, as well as to help with industry compliance. 

Moderated by Phyllis Spaeth, Associate Director at CARU, panelists Alan Friel, Partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP and Phyllis Marcus, Senior Attorney, Division of Advertising Practices at the FTC provided detailed explanations about the changes to the Rule, which were proposed in five areas: definitions, including the definitions of “personal information” and “collection”; parental notice; parental consent mechanisms; confidentiality and security of children’s personal information; and the role of self-regulatory “safe harbor” programs.

Marcus emphasized the need for written comments from everyone affected by the proposed changes (parents, government, advocacy groups and industry), stating that the FTC’s main goal in modifying COPPA is to “strike a balance between all constituents.” Comments are being accepted now through November 28, 2011.

The remaining panels included discussions on running creative promotions within legal parameters; the issue of blurring editorial and advertising content online and through other multi-media platforms; self-regulation and responsible food marketing to children;  and a panel which was comprised of a group of tween and teen boys and girls involved in a non-profit initiative called Teenangels, who spoke about their involvement in the organization and shared their views on multiple issues faced by teens online – from parental consent to cyber bullying.

Keynote presentations were delivered by Carla R. Michelotti, Global Chief Legal, Government & Corporate Affairs Officer at Leo Burnett Company and Julie Brill, Commissioner at the FTC. Brill noted that the FTC is continuously working on providing parents with “more streamlined, meaningful information” regarding the online privacy and protection of children and reminded audience members of the FTC’s tools to talk to kids about online safety, which are available at Onguardonline.gov.

As an event sponsor, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) was present at the conference, which co-located with the National Advertising Division (NAD) conference (held October 3-4, 2011) at the Ritz Carlton-New York in Battery Park. A year-round supporter of CARU, TIA has requested that CARU guidelines accurately reflect current technologies and that its self-regulatory guidelines be habitually maintained to keep pace with change.

CARU is the children's arm of the advertising industry's self-regulation program. The organization evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency; its scope includes advertising directed to children under 12 and online privacy and safety directed to children under 13.