FTC unveils sweeping plan to boost children’s privacy online

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The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday unveiled a major proposal to expand protections for children’s personal data and limit what information companies can collect from kids online, marking one of the U.S. government’s most aggressive efforts to create digital safeguards for children.

Under the proposal, digital platforms would be required to turn off targeted ads to children under 13 by default and prohibited from using certain data to send kids push notifications or “nudges” to encourage them to keep using their products.

The plan, which still needs to be adopted, marks one of the most significant attempts by U.S. regulators to broaden their oversight over children’s online privacy, an issue that has gained bipartisan traction across states and the federal government.

The proposed rulemaking seeks to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a landmark 1998 law requiring websites and other digital service providers to obtain consent from parents before collecting data from users under 13, among other safeguards. The agency unveiled the long-awaited plan in a call for comment from the public on Wednesday.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill for years have called for expanding COPPA’s protections to adapt to developments in the technology sector, but the efforts have faltered amid disagreements between House and Senate lawmakers over broader privacy protections.

President Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to take action on the issue, urging lawmakers in his State of the Union address this year to “pass bipartisan legislation to stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to children and impose stricter limits on the personal data that companies collect on all of us.”

“The proposed changes to COPPA are much-needed, especially in an era where online tools are essential for navigating daily life-and where firms are deploying increasingly sophisticated digital tools to surveil children,” FTC Chair Lina Khan (D) said in a statement.

The agency began reviewing its enforcement of COPPA in 2019, which children’s safety advocates expressed hope would serve as a launching point for more stringent oversight of Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook parent company Meta and Google.

Katharina Kopp, director of policy at the Center for Digital Democracy advocacy group, said the proposed update “provides urgently needed online safeguards to help stem the tidal wave of personal information gathered on kids.”

If adopted, the proposal could lead to more scrutiny of and legal clashes with the tech sector.

The FTC earlier this year unveiled another expansive proposal to bar Meta from monetizing data it collects from teens by updating a privacy pact the company and agency struck in 2020. But Meta is fighting to block the plan in federal court.

The new proposed rules would also expand protections against the collection of children’s data in schools, allowing ed tech companies to collect and use data from students only for educational purposes authorized by schools and not for any commercial purpose.

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3 thoughts on “FTC unveils sweeping plan to boost children’s privacy online

    1. So sorry, David. I commented on the story was was linked to the headline about airbags. Thanks for your careful monitoring.

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