Time Out With… PlayWell’s Linnette Attai


Technology marches on, as do regulations to protect the privacy and safety of our children. With the 2013 revisions to the federal Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), statutory penalties for non-compliance with COPPA are set at $16,000 per violation-that’s a hefty $16K per app download. Not to mention the fact that there are currently 80 bills in 30 states centering on issues of student data privacy. Calls for marketing regulation have been around for years. But Linnette Attai, founder of PlayWell–which provides customized support in regulatory and self-regulatory compliance issues to the youth media market–says most developers are unaware of all the issues that need navigating. Here’s Attai in her own words:

What don’t we know that we should?
COPPA applies in places you might not expect. Obviously in products and services directed primarily to kids, but also in the teen space and the general audience space that may appeal to kids.

What else should be on kids media execs’ radar screen?
Privacy is not safety; it’s a subset of safety. I see a lot of developers of apps for teens and young adults who are focused on complying with COPPA regulations but aren’t necessarily thinking about user safety. It’s not an area that’s regulated. When I’m working with clients I have them think about how users are going to interact with each other and how to make a robust community that’s also really safe. When building products in this space, the responsibility is on us as [businesses] to make a safe community. You can’t rely on children and teens to do that work for us.

What’s missing from our current COPPA 2.0?
The regulation is pretty comprehensive. From the company side, it’s either lack of awareness, or lack of resources to be able to do assessment and auditing of third parties who are incorporated into the app. For large companies, they may have all the compliance in place and built a really good infrastructure, but they may not have a handle on what partners and licensees are doing. That can be a blind spot for some companies.

How is privacy in the education sector being assessed?
It’s really important to understand the heavy scrutiny this sector is under: at the state level, there are 80 different bills for those in the education tech arena. There’s a lot of fear and concern about student data privacy, and companies need to not be scared by it, but to understand it so they can create a business model that works within the system.

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