Key Points

  • The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law meant to protect kids' data privacy online.
  • It applies heavy restrictions to the ways children's publishers can collect personal information from their users.
  • COPPA laws are strict, but they do not render advertising impossible for COPPA publishers.

As a digital publisher in the children's space, you may know that COPPA regulations are no joke. But do you really know what they are?

The answer to that question is an important one. That's because your ability to be compliant with COPPA regulations depends on your understanding of this federal privacy law and how to protect children's personal information across the digital ecosystem.

No need to be concerned, though. In this article, we get right to the heart what this astronomical privacy act entails, and we answer all of your burning questions while we're at it so you never have to worry about facing a COPPA violation. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

For many publishers, COPPA is not just a headache, but a major point of stress. That's true for some publishers, but not the publishers who work with Playwire. That's because we handle all aspects of COPPA compliance for you while maximizing your digital ad revenue. Contact us to find out how.

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COPPA Laws Defined

Here's the definition of COPPA laws in a nutshell:

What is COPPA?

COPPA is a federal law meant to control how digital publishers and advertisers may collect the personal data of any child who is younger than 13.

Enacted in the United States in 1998, COPPA laws have changed how the owners of digital properties directed toward young children monetize their content because it largely prohibits the collection of data that publishers traditionally use to create high-value audience segments to sell to advertisers.


With the definition of COPPA covered, let's get into some of the most frequently asked questions about these important online privacy laws:



Who is subject to COPPA?

Anyone who owns or operates a web property, including website, desktop app, and mobile app owners, that is directed toward children younger than 13 is subject to COPPA laws.

Now, the question gets more complicated when you try to define the "directed toward children" part. For example, is your web property directed toward children if you have cartoon-based video games on it?

These are some of the murky areas that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has tried to clarify over the years. We're left with this general rule of thumb: If it looks like it's directed toward children, it's probably subject to COPPA laws - even if it isn't exclusively meant for young kids.

What happens if you violate COPPA?

If you violate a COPPA regulation, you get fined. And you might end up in court, entangled in expensive litigation with the FTC or a state agency attempting to hold you accountable.

Fines start at $46,517 per violation, but single violations are kind of rare. Often, violations come in multiples. That's why the average fine levied by the FTC for COPPA violations hovers around $400,000. 

Do COPPA laws apply to all forms of data collection?

No. COPPA laws only apply to that which would violate the data privacy of the child. That means that anonymous metrics like time on site, clicks, impressions, video completions, and similar are all fair game as long as they are truly anonymous.

The other thing to remember is that data collection involving children younger than 13 is difficult - but not impossible - to do for children's publishers. COPPA doesn't forbid it outright. It simply requires that you provide a parent with direct notice and the ability to give verifiable parental consent to data collection on behalf of their child.

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COPPA Resource Center

The Complete COPPA Resource Center

Does COPPA make it illegal to run ads as a children's publisher?

Absolutely not. COPPA doesn't make running ads illegal for children's content creators. It does, however, make it more difficult to run targeted advertising in the traditional way - the way known to lead to the highest CPMs.

That's because it's all about data protection. Under COPPA, it's hard to collect the kind of user data that advertisers find valuable. That means you're less likely to have information to divide into valuable audience segments that will entice buyers to pay more for your inventory.

However, collecting data isn't expressly forbidden. There are ways - albeit more difficult ways - to get verifiable, parental consent to collect children's personal data and remain in compliance with COPPA.

And don't forget direct sales - insertion order (IO) buys that don't rely on user data are completely allowed and can actually lead to record-high CPMs when done right.

Does COPPA apply to publishers who aren't based in the United States?

It can. If a publisher that is not based in the U.S. is directed toward an audience of children younger than 13 in the U.S., then they are required to follow COPPA rule. 

However, COPPA publishers in other countries whose audiences are young children who are not in the U.S. are not required to follow COPPA data privacy laws. They likely have a separate but similar set of rules to follow, though (or they will soon).

Need Help with COPPA Law Compliance?

COPPA laws are a lot of things, and one of those things is confusing. But you don't have to deal with all of this alone. And you certainly don't have to give up on advertising as a source of revenue.

We'll show you how to remain within COPPA compliance, whether you're an app or web publisher, and grow your revenue at the same time. In fact, we'll do it for you with the platform we've built for that precise purpose.

Ready to get started? Contact the Playwire team today.

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