Today, two senators have proposed a major update to one of the only federal privacy laws in the United States. If approved, the changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) would codify a set of parental controls and ban targeted advertising to young minors.
Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) plan to introduce the bipartisan measure today that would amend COPPA in order to extend privacy protections to children up to age 15. COPPA already prohibits companies like Facebook and Google from collecting personal data and location information from anyone under the age of 13 without explicit parental consent, but the senators’ new bill amending the law would extend protections to children up to age 15. However, if approved, platforms would only be able to collect the data of children aged 13 to 15 with their own, personal consent and not that of their parents.
In 2019, children and adolescents’ every move is monitored online, and even the youngest are bombarded with advertising when they go online to do their homework, talk to friends, and play games. In the 21st century, we need to pass bipartisan and bicameral COPPA 2.0 legislation that puts children’s well-being at the top of Congress’s priority list. If we can agree on anything, it should be that children deserve strong and effective protections online.
One significant update would be the increased controls the legislation would give parents over their children’s personal data on these platforms. If approved, it would create what the senators called an “Eraser Button” that would remove all of a child’s data from the related service. If a parent or child decides to delete all of their data, no platform would be able to discontinue service to that user.
Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission penalized TikTok’s parent company with a record-setting $5.7 million for violating current COPPA regulations. In a press release, the FTC claimed that TikTok was collecting the personal data of children under 13 without receiving explicit consent from their parents. Under these proposed rules, apps and platforms like TikTok would have to abide by stronger privacy protections for children up to age 15 as well.
Platforms would also be barred from serving targeted ads to children under 13.
When it comes to connected devices and toys targeted toward children, the bill would also ensure that companies and manufacturers include some kind of disclosure on the packaging for parents detailing how their child’s data would be collected, retained, shared, and protected. And if those devices don’t meet a set of robust cybersecurity standards, they would be banned from stores.
Once approved, companies would have a year before they would be required to disclose to its users, in plain language, the types of data it collects, how it’s used, and the mechanisms used in order to ensure that data is not collected from minors.
“Big tech companies know too much about our kids, and even as parents, we know too little about what they are doing with our kids’ personal data. It’s time to hold them accountable,” Hawley said. “Congress needs to get serious about keeping our children’s information safe, and it begins with safeguarding their digital footprint online.”