Senate Bill Limits Kids' Data Collection On Tech Devices

COPPA update would require new labels, raise age of protections
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The Federal Trade Commission will allow Internet-connected devices, including children's toys and personal assistants, to record and store the voice of a child under 13 without seeking parental permission so long as it is only for the replacement of written words with voice commands in performing search and other functions on those Internet-connected devices and then destroyed ASAP.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), author of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), has joined with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to introduce an update to the law that would expand its protections and put new labeling mandates on consumer electronics.

Markey has long argued that given the development of online tracking and data collection in the decades since the original legislation was adopted, it was time to extend its protections beyond the under-13 crowd.

Related: FTC Levels Record Fine for Kids' Privacy Violations

The bill would prohibit the collection of personal and location information from anyone under 13 without parental consent and from anyone under 16 without the user's consent. It would also create an "eraser button," something Markey has also long pushed for, so parents could delete online info about their kids, as well as a Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Minors that further limits data collection.

It would also ban targeted advertising to children, revise COPPA's “actual knowledge” standard to a “constructive knowledge"; require companies to explain what info they are collecting and how it is used and/or disclosed; require "robust" cybersecurity standards for any Internet-connected devices targeted to kids or minors, and require manufacturers of those devices to "prominently display" on their packaging a "privacy dashboard" outlining how sensitive info is "collected, transmitted, retained, used, and protected."

The bill comes as both Democrats and Republicans are trying to figure out how to give online users in general more control over how their information is collected and shared and monetized, but with the recognition that monetizing it is the only way companies can continue to provide all that information mostly for free, something that users have come to expect almost as a given.

The bill would also create a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the Federal Trade Commission.

“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," said Markey. "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.”

“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," said Hawley. "It’s time to hold them accountable,” said Senator Hawley. “Congress needs to get serious about keeping our children’s information safe, and it begins with safeguarding their digital footprint online.”

“Many of today’s state-of-the-art practices used to target young people are manipulative and unfair, intruding into their personal relationships and tapping into their developmental vulnerabilities," said Kathryn Montgomery, Ph.D, research director for the Center for Digital Democracy. "While the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) has provided limited safeguards for the youngest children, this groundbreaking legislation will go much further. In addition to expanding COPPA’s coverage to include young adolescents, it will address a broad range of problematic marketing practices that companies have been able to use up to now without any oversight or accountability.”

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