COPPA Compliance: Safe Harbor

Sean Bryant

Inversoft has provided a shortened version of the ‘Business and Parents and Small Entity Compliance Guide’.

Safe Harbor


1. How can I qualify as a Commission-approved COPPA safe harbor program?

A member of the industry or person must submit 'self-regulatory' guidelines to the FTC for approval. The Commission is required to publish the safe harbor application in the Federal Register (for public comment), and then writes a determination on the application within 180 days of filing.

COPPA safe harbor applications must contain:

  • Applicant's business model and technological capabilities and tools it will use to assess member operator's information collection practices
  • A copy of the full text of the safe harbor program’s guidelines and any accompanying commentary
  • A comparison of each program guideline with each corresponding Rule provision and a statement of how each guideline meets the Rule’s requirements
  • A statement of how the assessment mechanisms and disciplinary consequences provide effective COPPA enforcement.

The amended Rule sets forth the key criteria the FTC will consider in reviewing a safe harbor application:

  • Whether the applicant’s program includes guidelines that provide substantially the same or greater protection than the standards set forth in the COPPA Rule
  • Whether the program includes an effective, mandatory mechanism to independently assess member operators’ compliance with the program’s guidelines which at a minimum must include a comprehensive annual review by the safe harbor program of each member operator
  • Whether the program includes effective disciplinary actions for member operators who do not comply with the safe harbor program guidelines.

2. What should I do if I am interested in submitting my self-regulatory program to the FTC for approval under the safe harbor provision?

Information is provided online at the COPPA Safe Harbor Program portion of the FTC’s Business Center Web site.

You may send an email to as well.

3. How can I learn about safe harbor programs that have been approved by the Commission?

Information on approved safe harbor programs can be found at COPPA Safe Harbor Program.


For more information on COPPA FAQs click here.