FTC Removes Aristotle from List of Approved Child Online Privacy Self-Regulatory Organizations

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the ending of Aristotle International Inc.’s two-decade run on the list of organizations that enforce compliance with the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Now, website and online services operators that paid Aristotle for participation in its program can “no longer receive favorable regulatory treatment,” the FTC’s press release said.

The commission explained that an FTC-promulgated COPPA rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services targeting children under 13 or general-audience websites and services that knowingly collect personal information from those children, such as those that offer network-connected games, social networking activities, and goods or services for sale. These online businesses must “notify parents about their information practices and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any personal information from children under the age of 13,” the press release said. Aristotle was reportedly one of seven commission-approved Safe Harbor Program organizations and is the first to be removed from the list.

While performing oversight earlier this year, the FTC warned Aristotle of its concern that the organization was not sufficiently monitoring member companies to ensure compliance. Aristotle responded in a dissatisfactory manner, prompting FTC staff to tell the company of its planned recommendation to revoke its safe harbor program approval. On June 1, Aristotle reportedly told the commission that it was withdrawing from the program.

“The FTC will no longer allow self-regulatory organizations to flout their obligations under Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rules. Aristotle will no longer be recognized by the FTC as an approved Safe Harbor program,” Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Samuel Levine said in a statement. “There is a clear conflict of interest when self-regulatory organizations are funded by the website operators and app developers they are supposed to police, so we will be closely scrutinizing other children’s privacy oversight outfits to determine whether they are living up to their obligations.”