The FTC announced that it has given guidance on when the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires collection of parental consent before collecting voice recordings online from children under 13. The issue arose because, as the FTC noted, voice is beginning to be a “replacement for written words,” especially when conducting searches or instructing digital devices. COPPA requires collecting parental consent before collecting personally identifiable information from children online. The definition of “personal information” under COPPA is broad, and includes audio files. Arguably, then, online operators would need parental consent before children “submitted” audio files, including in the form of conducting verbal searches or giving verbal instructions to their connected device.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: Companies that collect audio files – for example if they operate online platforms that permit users to submit voice instructions – may find this recent FTC statement helpful. Attention should be paid, however, to the limitations of this non-enforcement policy.