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I'm a relatively new freelance web developer that's creating a site for a client that's geared solely towards children. I have read through the guidelines on how to comply with COPPA and I'm doing my best to comply, but feeling unsure if I'm doing things exactly right. I can't afford a lawyer (unless I passed the charge onto my client), so I'm not sure what to do.

I have a few questions:

  1. Is it my responsibility to be sure the site is completely COPPA compliant, or is it my client's? For example, there needs to be a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Am I responsible for drafting those documents?
  2. Is COPPA compliance an area where I (or my client) should really consult a lawyer? Or can I get away with just following the guidelines to the best of my ability.
  3. Is there a clause I can put in my contract that would protect me from being sued by my client in the case that my client is fined or sued?
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Unless your contract specifies you're responsible for it, you're not responsible for it. That, privacy policies, and terms are a legal task that I can't imagine anyone ever assigning to a developer. If you're concerned about it, you should ask the client what their plans are for complying with the law, as there are likely things you need to make sure are built in order to ensure compliance (and may have already been covered in their specs but just not labeled "this is for coppa"). If they respond that they have no plans, you might consider just not accepting that assignment (assuming you haven't alreasy agreed to do it) as they clearly have not thought this through at all. A lot of COPPA compliance is actually administrative and most of it cannot be achieved through development tasks anyways, so depending solely on a developer is gonna get them absolutely nowhere.

A freelance developer being responsible for full compliance of that law is frankly an insane thought. You were hired to build something according to their specifications, nothing more. If they had you build something that wasn't compliant, that's their problem. You absolutely should include that you're not responsible for COPPA compliance in your contract if it will give you peace of mind for the future. There's nothing wrong with stipulating something like that in a contract even if not legally necessary. It gives both parties a clearer picture and might prevent them trying to go after you for something you weren't responsible for, because it was explicitly mentioned.

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