State AG Monitor

Maryland Attorney General Supports Opening State Courts to COPPA Claims

Posted in Data Privacy

Over the last several years, State Attorneys General have been very active on data privacy, especially Internet privacy, and Maryland AG Doug Gansler has been among the leaders. With the 2013 Maryland legislative session underway, AG Gansler is urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would declare that a violation of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is also an unfair and deceptive practice under the state’s consumer protection laws, which would permit the AG to bring COPPA actions in state courts. COPPA prohibits companies from collecting information on children younger than thirteen without parental consent.

AGs already can bring COPPA actions in federal district courts after giving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notice, but AG Gansler believes that states need independent authority to combat the proliferation of questionable conduct targeted at children. In addition to expanding the fora for suits, the proposal also would require companies to label as “advertisements” any marketing campaigns aimed at children.

AG Gansler believes that the legislation will provide important flexibility to the state in enforcement and would enable Maryland to take swift action to protect children without delays associated with notifying the FTC.

This legislative endeavor comes after significant effort in the AG’s Office to increase data privacy and to protect children online. Last June, AG Gansler announced, in his role as President of the National Association of Attorneys General, “Privacy in the Digital Age” as his Presidential Initiative. The Initiative will likely bring the attention of all State AGs to bear on issues surrounding data and Internet privacy.  His Office also recently established an Internet Privacy Unit that will focus on enforcement and compliance with privacy laws. If the legislature enacts the pending proposal, the new Internet Privacy Unit will have increased tools with which to protect online privacy.

For more information about AG efforts in the area of data privacy, visit our blog. Attorneys and Certified Information Privacy Professionals Divonne Smoyer and Aaron Lancaster recently published an article reviewing last year’s data privacy activity and looking ahead to data privacy issues in 2013. (Law360 subscription required).