FTC Slaps Xanga with Largest Ever COPPA Fine
When a website knowingly violates kid's privacy
by taking their personal information illegally
and without parental consent, that act is a
violation of the federal law known as COPPA.
use the unauthorized information collected on
kids to earn a profit.
Well, that is exactly what Xanga.com did over a
5 year period by knowingly accumulating and
disclosing the personal profile information
of 1,700,000 (million) kids to anyone with
access. That access, not just limited to
Xanga.com members, also included anyone who
conducted searches through Google and Yahoo.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule,
otherwise known by it's acronymn (COPPA)
protects the privacy of children under the
age of 13. It also requires any commercial
website to provide clear disclosure to this
effect and parental consent being required.
But, not just disclosure and consent - actual controls
to insure under age kids are not registering
What got Xanga.com the largest fine ever issued by
the FTC for COPPA violations was the fact the owners
evidently knew their website would allow kids to
register - even after providing the required birthdate
In practical terms, Xanga had a lock on their front door,
but never used it to keep out kids 13 and under.
Because in this instance Xanga was the identity thief.
The value of 1.7 million under age members
evidently outweighed any fine deterrence to
However, the FTC made a striking point of dispelling
that myth as the $1,000,000 fine they slapped against
Xanga.com and their primary owners was 2x any
previous fine assessed. And, 60% of that total fine
is due within 5 days of the Xanga owners signing the
consent decree with the federal government.
I can say from personal experience consulting with a
major artist & entertainment portal in 1999, COPPA was
and still is a major concern in operational procedures
being above reproach. That company went to great lengths
and considerable expense to eliminate any doubt the data
they possessed could be considered "tainted" and thus in
violation of COPPA.
I personally saw them walk away from an over 400,000
customer database worth tens of millions of dollars in
revenue solely for the reason they could not verify
those names were valid for use under the COPPA
Xanga.com, in contrast, perpetrated the worst and opposite
extreme. They knowingly collected, trafficked, & made
available the personal identities of innocent children
the law known as COPPA is designed to protect.
So, our tip for today is simple and direct. If you have
children under the age of 13, they must have your explicit
consent to provide their personal identifying information
to a commercial website. Furthermore, if your children 13
and under are members of Xanga.com or any of the other
major social networking sites like MySpace.com or
Facebook, they have put themselves and those sites at risk
with COPPA - not to mention the child predators who use
identity theft collection techniques to hunt down their victims.
For those instances, you can simply delete your child's account.
Also, use these convenient links to remove your child's Xanga
personal information from Google or Yahoo.