Posting ages on websites
continued clarifications

Dear all,

Last year the question came up with regards to posting the birthdates of athletes on the websites. It was stated at that time not to post birth dates. Please read below the clarification which was sent to us from one of the legal offices. I believe at this time you are all following the guidelines from last year with regards to not posting birth dates. However, I wanted you to see the message below with regards to the law and its intent. This is not a change, just clarification.

Thank you for referring this interesting question from USA Gymnastics. Here are my thoughts:

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) would not apply to this situation. The law applies to the online collection of personal information from children under age 13, without verified parental consent. In this situation, as I understand it, children under age 13 would enroll in gymnastics programs and participate in events with the consent of their parent or guardian. (The enrollment can take place through a secure online site, or offline.) Of course, the consent form should contain a notice that the parent signs, indicating how the child’s information will be collected, used and shared.

The posting of scores (and the ages of the winners) from gymnastics competitions is based on information already collected/events that transpired, and does not involve a solicitation of minors to provide personal information about themselves through the USA Gymnastics site.

As an example of how COPPA applies (which is much different than the USA Gymnastics context), please note that earlier this week, the FTC entered into a settlement agreement with Iconix Group Brands, which manufactures and sells a number of children’s brands such as Candie’s, OP and Bongo. Iconix was knowingly collecting all sorts of information through its websites from children under age 13, including their names, addresses, email address, and even full dates of birth—all without any type of parental consent. The company’s website privacy policy specifically noted that the company does not seek to collect any information from children under age 13. Iconix must pay a fine of $275,000, destroy all of the information collected, and adhere to many other requirements contained in an 20 year FTC consent decree.

If USA Gymnastics were to sell products or services online, or solicit minors to sign up for sweepstakes or similar programs, they would fall under COPPA. Posting scores from competitions is not the same thing.

Although the posting of gymnastics scores and dates of birth would not violate COPPA under the circumstances involved here, it is nevertheless very important to protect the information of minors. I would never post the dates of birth of minors on a public website, and agree that age ranges are a much better approach. They could also consider abbreviating names of children, such as Janie M, Katie L, etc. I would also be careful about posting pictures of minors, especially if the consent forms don’t address this.

Joan A.