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Does Your Social Media Campaign Involve Children?

Has your company encouraged its followers on social media to post pictures of themselves with your company's logo, using your company's products, or visiting your company's store?

If yes, you need to ensure that there are no pictures of children under the age of 13 posted without the parents of those children receiving notice and verifiable consent.

Last week it was reported that ten advocacy groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") to investigate the Topps Company, the maker of the candy Ring Pops, for encouraging children to post pictures of themselves online.  Topps ran a contest earlier this year that invited Ring Pops users to post photos of themselves with the candy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Contestants were to tag the photos with the #RockThatRock hashtag, and the winning photos were featured in a music video.  The photos were also posted on Ring Pops' Facebook and Twitter pages.  Supposedly, many of these pictures depicted young children.

The FTC complaint alleges that this social media campaign violated the federal Children Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA").  The law requires companies to notify parents and obtain verifiable consent before collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.  In 2013, COPPA was updated to include photographs within the definition of "personal information."  The fear is that these children can be identified by their pictures and screen user names.  Companies that violate COPPA can be subject to civil penalties.

If you have run or are planning to run a social media campaign that encourages the posting of pictures and those pictures might involve children under the age of 13, then you need to make sure that you comply with COPPA.

Contact a member of MacDonald Illig's Emerging Technologies Practice Group to discuss how to make your social media and general online activities COPAA-compliant.  Also, if you know someone who is interested in receiving these updates, contact vmadden@mijb.com to be added to the distribution list.