On October 23, 2017, the FTC provided additional guidance on the COPPA Rule regarding the collection of audio voice recordings by organizations covered by the law. The FTC advised that the collection of an audio file from a child, even when such a file is being used solely as replacement for written words, falls within the first prong of the definition of collection. As a result, as soon as an operator obtains a recording, the operator has collected the recording for purposes of the COPPA Rule regardless of how long it maintains possession of the file. The FTC advised that it understood the value of using voice as a replacement for written words in performing search and other functions on internet-connected devices, especially for certain consumers such as children who have not yet learned to write. As such, the FTC advises that it will not take any enforcement action in certain circumstances where an operator collects an audio file from a child without parental consent.
Companies should note that the FTC places the following limitations on the non-enforcement policy:
- The nonenforcement policy does not apply when the operator requests information by voice that otherwise is considered personal information under the Rule (i.e., name).
- The operator may not make any other use of the audio file in the brief period before the file is destroyed.
- The policy does not affect the operator’s COPPA compliance requirements in any other respect (i.e., the operator must provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent if types of personal information other than audio files are also collected).
We suggest companies review the October 23, 2017 release to determine whether their products and services may benefit from the FTC’s policy of non-enforcement.