I'm testifying this morning before the Senate Commerce Committee's Consumer Protection Subcommittee on Examining Children's Privacy: New Technologies and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act at 10 am in 253 Russell. I offered an overview of my testimony in a PFF TechCast interview yesterday.
My pre-scripted oral testimony (PDF) follows below, but you can download my somewhat longer written testimony here, which offers an overview of our past work on this subject at PFF, particularly the paper Adam Thierer and I published last summer COPPA 2.0: The New Battle over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech.
Mr. Chairman and Committee members, thank you for inviting me here today. My name is Berin Szoka. I'm a Senior Fellow at The Progress & Freedom Foundation. I commend this Committee for studying COPPA, and the FTC for its upcoming COPPA Review and Roundtable.
Whatever this trade-off, I'm here today to caution against expanding COPPA beyond its original, limited purpose. COPPA's unique value lies in its flexibility, subtlety, and intentional narrowness.
COPPA is flexible because it potentially applies to the entire Internet regardless of the access device used--including services scarcely imaginable in 1998.
COPPA is subtle because it requires "verifiable parental consent" not only if site and service operators gather personal information from kids for their own use, but also if sites enable children to make personal information "publicly available" online. Even more subtle is COPPA's creative solution to the thorny problem of age verification. Unlike the similarly-named Child Online Protection Act, COPPA only requires age verification of users on sites clearly directed at children, whereas COPA required it for any site offering content deemed "harmful to minors."
Ultimately, concerns about tailored advertising may be less about privacy than about what advertising scholar Jack Calfee has dubbed the "Fear of Persuasion"--the idea that advertising is inherently manipulative and only grows more so with increased relevance. But as Calfee notes, "by the age 10 or so, children develop a full understanding of the purpose of advertising and equally important, an active suspicion of what advertisers say." If government has a role to play in addressing concerns about tailored marketing, it lies in educating kids about advertising to help them become smarter consumers. Last week, the FTC launched just such an education campaign with its AdMongo tutorial website (www.admongo.gov). The FTC excels in consumer education, and should be encouraged in these efforts as a less restrictive alternative to regulation.
Thank you again for inviting me here to testify.
 Federal Trade Commission, Request for Public Comment on the FTC's Implementation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule, April 5, 2010, http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/03/100324coppa.pdf; see also COPPA Rule Review Roundtable, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/coppa/index.shtml.
 47 U.S.C. § 231.
 See Federal Trade Commission, Safe Harbor Program, www.ftc.gov/privacy/privacyinitiatives/childrens_shp.html.
 Under the FTC's "sliding scale" approach to obtaining parental consent, other acceptable methods include print-and-fax forms, follow-up phone calls and e-mails, and using encryption certificates. 16 C.F.R. § 312.5(b)(2).
 In a February 2007 report to Congress about the status of the law and its enforcement, the FTC said that no changes to COPPA were then necessary because the law had "been effective in helping to protect the privacy and safety of young children online." Federal Trade Commission, Implementing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act: A Report to Congress at 1, Feb. 2007, www.ftc.gov/reports/coppa/07COPPA_Report_to
_Congress.pdf. In discussing the effectiveness of the parental consent verification methods authorized in the FTC's sliding scale approach, however, the agency acknowledged that "none of these mechanisms is foolproof." Id. at 13. The FTC attempts to distinguish these parental consent verification methods from other kinds of age verification tools in noting that "age verification technologies have not kept pace with other developments, and are not currently available as a substitute for other screening mechanisms." Id. at 12.
 Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka, The Hidden Benefactor: How Advertising Informs, Educates & Benefits Consumers, Progress on Point 6.5, Feb. 2010, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2010/pdf/ps6.5-the-hidden-benefactor.pdf.
 In 2005, the FTC has cited an estimate of $45/child as the cost of obtaining verifiable parental consent for child-oriented sites to comply with COPPA. See Comments of Parry Aftab, Request for Public Comment on the Implementation of COPPA and COPPA Rule's Sliding Scale Mechanism for Obtaining Verifiable Parental Consent Before Collecting Personal Information from Children at 2, June 27, 2005, www.ftc.gov/os/comments/COPPArulereview/516296-00021.pdf.
 Federal Trade Commission to Launch Advertising Literacy Campaign National Program Gives 'Tweens' Ages 8 to 12 Skills to Recognize, Understand Advertising, April 26, 2010, www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/04/admongo.shtm.