Recent changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, has left education app developers frustrated by its recently proposed, expanded regulations and the limitations these could impose. COPPA’s regulations state companies’ websites that collect personal information from children under 13 must notify and receive consent from a parent before the child can access the site.
The difficulty with these regulations for app developers is that they restrict the collection of analytics from their apps — valuable information, particularly for an education app company looking for more information on where students are struggling and where they’re learning using the app.
Education app developer Dan Russell-Pinson shared his frustrations in complying with the new guidelines in The Washington Post: “I’m a little hesitant to innovate because of COPPA,” he said. “At this point I don’t know what I can and cannot do, and if in doubt you do less.”
Another COPPA regulation that has been difficult for these small businesses to navigate is what “personally identifiable” information about a child could mean. For instance, the regulations prohibit apps and websites from allowing children under 13 to share full names, email addresses, and home addresses, but developers are uncertain about semi-private information such as screen names and first names. At one point, Russell-Pinson wanted to expand his apps by allowing kids to play with each other online. However, in incorporating social gaming, “There would have to be some type of sharing — like a screen name or location in order to match up two players,” said Russell-Pinson. “But I’m afraid to do that because I’m uncertain [of violating COPPA].”
Complying with the updated privacy laws could prove costly for the educational apps sector, 87 percent of which is produced by small businesses, according to The Association for Competitive Technology, quoted in the Post. The ACT, an international advocacy organization for developers, stated that legal and other costs could reach over $9,000 per app, which is significant for the average app, whose total earnings range from about $5,000-$10,000.
Readers, what do you think about COPPA’s proposed regulations? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.