The Washington Post

Guarding children’s online privacy

For more than 20 years, Mamie Kresses has been working to protect consumers from fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices, and handled cases involving telemarketers, advertising, tobacco products, online privacy and data security.

As a senior attorney with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Kresses is currently overseeing the effort to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) regulations to ensure that the statue is keeping up with new technologies.

Enacted in 1998, the law requires businesses and organizations to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information such as full names, mailing and email addresses, and Social Security numbers from children under the age of 13.

“When we undertook the rule review, it was in recognition that online technologies have exploded with new devices like mobile phones and tablets since the law went into effect. We wanted to determine whether or not any changes or modifications needed to be made to the statue to ensure that it remains valuable and relevant as the online world changes,” said Kresses.

After extensive review and public comment, Kresses and her team recommended modifications to the regulations in five different areas. One proposal seeks to streamline and clarify the direct notice that operators must give parents prior to collecting children’s personal information. Another proposal would add a new method to obtain verifiable parental consent, including electronic scans of signed parental consent forms. The FTC expects to issue the final rules this fall.

Federal Trade Commission attorney Mamie Kresses (T.J. Peeler)

Kresses said the challenge is to “ensure that the law continues to give parents knowledge and a say in what their children do online while at the same time encouraging innovation and interesting content for children.”

Richard Quaresima, an FTC colleague, said Kresses is “very sensitive to the difficult policy questions and choices that arise to protect the privacy interest of children when engaging in online activities. She understands that better than anyone that I know.”

As part of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, Kresses has handled cases involving online commercial practices, including an examination of online behavioral advertising. She also worked on a case that focused on commercially sold spyware that could silently and stealthily capture a consumer’s personal information.

“Mamie is very versatile, and she is the type of person you can put on anything and have a good result,” said Mary Engle, Associate Director for advertising practices.

Kresses said she is most proud of a case that required U.S. cigar manufacturers in the late 1990s to establish a warning label on cigar advertisements. Kresses said the FTC was able to negotiate voluntary orders with 95 percent of the cigar industry.

“The warnings were in a more prominent size and location than those of cigarettes, and they sent a message to the public that cigars, like any tobacco product, come with serious risks,” said Kresses. “If you go in a 7-Eleven today, you can see the cigars and their warnings behind the wall of the cashier. It’s important information for consumers to have.”

For Kresses, her work is always guided by what is the best result for the consumer.

“We look at the issues that are important and relevant to consumers and make a difference to ensure that claims are truthful so consumers can make informed decisions,” said Kresses.

This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and Go to to read about other federal workers who are making a difference.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate tonight. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
56% 36%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.