Key Takeaways

  • The Children's Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) affects mobile apps in much the same way it affects websites with content directed toward children.
  • That means app publishers have to pay close attention to the requirements of COPPA.
  • They must also adjust their advertising strategies to remain profitable and in compliance with COPPA.

Think COPPA doesn't apply to you because you're an app publisher? If your app is directed toward a target audience of children younger than 13, you're dead wrong.

COPPA affects kids' apps just as much as it affects kids' websites. The COPPA rules for apps and websites are the same. And if you're not carefully planning for them, you could lose your ability to effectively run advertising on your app - or worse, get slapped with a huge fine from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

To make sure none of that happens to you and your app, you need to begin from a place of understanding. You need to understand exactly how COPPA will affect you as a children's app publisher. From there, you can begin to build a strategy that will keep you profitable. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

COPPA and kids' app publishers don't have to be at odds. With the right tools and technology, you can remain in compliance with COPPA and bring in record revenue. We've built the framework that makes it happen. Contact Playwire to learn more.

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COPPA Guide

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act: Guidelines for Advertising According to COPPA Laws

App Publishers Have to Play by the Rules

Let's get a common misconception out of the way: COPPA absolutely, without a doubt, applies to apps. You don't have to look any further than the language of the law itself to understand how. 

COPPA doesn't talk about websites or apps specifically. It speaks more generally about "web properties" - a handy bit of foresight from the writers of the law, who wrote the first drafts when apps didn't exist.

Apps are certainly web properties. They use the internet to be downloaded from an app store as well as to function and exist. And that means they are subject to the requirements of COPPA if their content is directed toward an audience of children who are younger than 13.

Put simply, that means you have to play by COPPA's rules - no matter how much you may not want to.

Apps Need Parental Consent to Remain Compliant

So, what does that mean in practice? Perhaps the first and most important way COPPA affects kids' apps is by prohibiting most forms of data collection from any child younger than 13. The only way to legally collect identifying, non-anonymous data from young children using your app is through demonstrably authentic parental consent. 

And if you've ever had to manage any sort of opt-in campaign in apps or elsewhere, you know getting parents to even look at the app in the first place is going to be a monumental challenge. Then, of course, you have the challenge of making parents understand why they should consent to their children's data being collected in the first place.

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COPPA Compliance Training for Publishers

COPPA Compliance Training for Publishers

Managing and Deleting Kids' Data Matters

Even if you do successfully gain consent from parents to collect their children's data within the strict rules of COPPA, you're still subject to further rules about what you can and can't do with it. For example, you can't just hang onto the data forever. You can only keep it for as long as is necessary to carry out the purpose for which you originally collected it. Then, you have to delete that data.

And while the data is in your position, it's your responsibility to protect it from leaks and theft that could compromise the privacy of the young children from whom you collected it. That means you have to have reasonably robust barriers to hacking and other forms of data theft.

No Barriers to App Use Based on Data Collection

Some app developers and publishers have tried to get creative with their means of data collection within the confines of COPPA. The result has sometimes been schemes that disallow usage of the app based on users' lack of consent to data collection.

As far as COPPA is concerned, data collected in that way is in violation of the law. In other words, your collection of children's data has to play by both the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.

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COPPA Resource Center

The Complete COPPA Resource Center

Non-Compliance with COPPA Means Fines for App Publishers

Here's a big way COPPA can affect kids' apps: huge fines. Each violation of COPPA is worth its own fine of over $40,000, and if you violate it multiple times, you can expect to pay the fine as many times over.

That's why the average FTC fine for COPPA violations is around $400,000. Most app publishers don't have that kind of cash lying around, so a COPPA violation can quickly become an existential threat to your business.

Done-for-You COPPA Compliance for Apps: Playwire

No one ever said keeping your app in compliance with COPPA rules would be easy. But the team at Playwire has built a solution that can make it much easier on you in particular.

It's a dedicated platform meant to make sure you can still do all the things that enable revenue - programmatic advertising, data collection and management, consent management, and more - while remaining within the strict rules COPPA sets forth for children's app publishers.

It's not a gimmick or a bait and switch. It's a real, working platform countless children's publishers are using to sustain their businesses right now. Ready to learn more? Contact Playwire today.

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