Online Retailers Pursue Teenagers - NY Times
Viewing the privacy policies of these websites reveals a common theme:
HollisterCo.com is not directed at anyone under the age of 13, and no one under the age of 13 should provide personal information on this Web site. Hollister Co.
You must be 13 or older in order to submit any personal information to our website ... Thisit (Macy's teen site)
Why? Marketing to teenagers brings up the subject of whether the site must comply with The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 ("COPPA"), 15 U.S.C. 6501 et seq. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule, ("COPPA Rule"), 16 C.F.R. Part 312 (1999) (implementing COPPA) applies to web site operators who direct a web site or online service to children. Id. at § 312.3. A child is defined as "an individual under the age of 13." Id. at § 312.2. Hence the "13 or older" language in the privacy policies. So the site's say they're not targeting kids under 13, so then COPPA doesn't apply. Right? Quoting ESPN Game Day analyst Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."
Section 312.2 directs the Federal Trade Commission to look beyond the stated intent of the website operator.
In determining whether a commercial website or online service, or a portion thereof, is targeted to children, the Commission will consider its subject matter, visual or audio content, age of models, language or other characteristics of the website or online service, as well as whether advertising promoting or appearing on the website or online service is directed to children. The Commission will also consider competent and reliable empirical evidence regarding audience composition; evidence regarding the intended audience; and whether a site uses animated characters and/or child-oriented activities and incentives.The FTC's website on COPPA located here. See the FTC's "How to Comply With The Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule."
Not complying with the Rule can cost a website operator money!