The Federal Trade Commission announced this week that it is currently seeking public comments on a potential new method for obtaining parent consent under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.

COPPA requires, among other things, that websites and online services directed to children under 13 "obtain verifiable parental consent prior to any collection, use, and/or disclosure of personal information from children."

The Rule lays out specific methods of obtaining verifiable parent consent, which currently include things like providing a consent form to be signed by the parent, having a parent connect to trained personnel vide video-conference, having a parent call a telephone number staffed by trained personnel, and more. However, the Rule also includes a provision that allows certain parties to submit a request to the FTC asking the FTC to approve additional methods. 

In a June 2 letter to the FTC, three parties requested FTC approval over a new mechanism referred to as "Privacy-Protective Facial Age Estimation" which "uses proven facial age estimation technology to analyze the geometry of a parent's face to confirm that they are an adult." The letter says that the technology "reflects advances in digital technologies available since the Commission last approved a [verifiable parent consent] method in 2015" and provides an "accurate, reliable, accessible, fast, simple, and privacy-preserving mechanism for ensuring that the person providing consent is the child's parent." 

The FTC's announcement this week noted that during the public comment period (which runs for 30 days from the date the notice is published in the Federal Register), the FTC is looking for comments on a number of questions related to the proposed mechanism, including "whether the proposed age verification method is covered by existing methods; whether the proposed method meets the requirements under the COPPA Rule; and whether the proposed method poses a privacy risk to consumers’ personal information, including their biometric information."

Instructions for submitting a comment can be found in the notice, available here.