Lawmakers applaud the progress, call for tougher rules to protect children’s and teens’ privacy, and warn that the FTC’s action “in no way diminishes” the need for congressional action
Text of the letter (PDF)
Washington (September 30, 2022) – Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, led his colleagues Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.). -14) and Lori Trahan (MA-03) in a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Lina Hahn applauding the FTC’s continued efforts to implement strong privacy safeguards and seek expert input on how to effectively counter the threats of child surveillance and teens online. The FTC’s announcement of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Internet Privacy, which included a special focus on online threats to young people, coincided with the first anniversary of The Wall Street JournalThe publication of the Facebook Files led to the leak of internal Facebook documents, which made it clear that the company was aware of the damage its Instagram platform was causing to the mental health of young people.
In the lawmakers’ letter to the FTC, they also urge the Commission to update regulations issued under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In particular, the legislators call on the Commission to update the normative legal acts, in particular by:
- Expanding the definition of “personal information” covered by COPPA;
- Implementation rules to meet COPPA requirements to protect the privacy, security, and integrity of children’s data on platforms;
- Introducing regulatory safeguards that reflect the increased use of online platforms for educational purposes; and
- Implementing Rules to Implement COPPA’s Prohibition on Making a Child’s Participation in Online Activities Conditional on Providing More Data Than Reasonably Necessary.
“Experts agree that we have reached a tipping point for children and teenagers online, with rates of mental health problems for them skyrocketing, and the US chief medical officer has called on technology and social media companies to address these threats to young people.“, the deputies wrote. “In countries around the world, government agencies have begun to take action by implementing policies to combat harmful online threats to children. Now the United States must do the same.”
In their letter, the lawmakers stress that the FTC’s latest commitment to study rules to “end harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security” does not detract from Congress’s urgent commitment to quickly pass legislation that will protect young Internet users, including a renewed Sen. Markey. The Law on Protection of Privacy of Children and Adolescents on the Internet (COPPA 2.0).
“The urgency of this issue requires a complex approach,» – the legislators continued. “We look forward to working with you as these processes move forward to ensure that children and adolescents across the United States have the online protections they need and deserve.”
In May 2021, Senator Markey introduced The Law on Protection of Privacy of Children and Adolescents on the Internet, co-sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Commerce Committee members Richard Blumenthal (D-Connect.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), which prohibits Internet companies from collecting personal information from anyone of any age from 13 to 16 years old without the consent of the user; prohibit targeted marketing to children; create an online “Eraser” button, requiring companies to allow users to delete personal information from a child or teenager; introduce the Digital Marketing Minors Bill of Rights, which limits the collection of personal information of young users; and creating the Federal Trade Commission’s first-of-its-kind Division of Privacy and Marketing to Youth, which will be responsible for addressing children’s and minors’ privacy and marketing to children and minors. The legislation, which passed through the Senate Commerce Committee in July, builds on the senator’s 1998 resolution. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.