July 17, 2013

comScore Adopts Best Practices to Enhance Compliance with New COPPA Regulations

Richard Weaver
Deputy Privacy Officer

As readers may be aware, on July 1, 2013, revisions to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) went into effect, providing updated clarification to the rules of the road for companies that wish to collect information from anyone under the age of 13 for the purpose of contacting them or providing services to them. comScore has carefully reviewed the revised COPPA regulations with regulators and outside privacy experts, who have helped us verify our understanding of the revised regulations, and we have determined that our practices are in compliance with these regulations.

While comScore collects research information in a number of ways, from software to surveys, our research materials are primarily obtained through opt-in market research panels and a census-level review of traffic through participating websites, which we call our census network.  

 Our market research panels are comprised of people who install software that allows us to understand internet behavior and create reports about internet trends. These reports are statistical observations obtained through our research, which may indicate aggregate findings such as that 15% of Males Age 18-34 visit Website X. Importantly, none of our reports refer the habits of a particular individual.

 People who install our software may do so through a very detailed registration process found on our registration sites (for example PermissionResearch) or they may join through a more streamlined process when they receive an offer from one of our partners to join one of our panels. Our detailed registration process has always required the person installing the software to provide demographic information (such as age and gender) about themselves and the people in their households, but our more streamlined process has asked for much less detailed information. In light of COPPA, and in the spirit of implementing privacy best practices, we are expanding our more robust age screening process to all of our new research panelists. In the meantime, as we move our panel to completely adopt this enhanced registration process, we will limit the use of information that we believe may relate to individuals under age 13 if that data was obtained from a household where the person who installed did not enroll through the enhanced process. It is important to note that, as mentioned above, the data that we collect about children is only reported in the aggregate (e.g. 10% of children have visited Website Y) and we do not collect data for the purpose of contacting a child, nor can our clients use our reports to contact a child.

 comScore’s census network methodology involves our use of web tags to help companies understand general visitation patterns on websites. Web tags are commonly used by companies across the Internet to understand such patterns. Data collected through our census network provides supplementary information on web page activity to assist in further calibrating our aggregate audience estimates, and also provides companies information on the effectiveness of a marketing message or whether or not particular content of their website is reaching the right readers. Importantly, the data obtained via the census network is not used for online behavioral advertising or one-to-one targeting of individuals.

 To further understand our practices, you may wish to visit our Scorecard Research site where we provide additional information about our census data collection policies and methodology, or look here to see what PrivacyScore, an independent privacy advocate, has to say about us. 

 comScore is continually refining its privacy practices, and we welcome your comments at privacy@comscore.com.

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