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Child Online Privacy Protection Act

The United States Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13. It spells out what a Web site operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online.

Unfortunately, ostensibly because the cost of complying with the regulation was too high, one of COPPA's largest impacts was to cause a number of websites that catered to children to shut down entirely. A number of other general-audience web sites stopped offering services to children at all. So far (2002), there has been little, if any, actual legal action taken against a web site operator for COPPA violations.

COPPA was originally only the first half of a larger bill, the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA. The two halves were separated, however, partially due to concerns about the constitutionality of the second half, which was largely a restatement of a portion of the earlier Communications Decency Act (CDA) that outlawed showing pornography to minors over the Internet. Eventually, both halves passed, under the titles COPPA and COPA, respectively.

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