Short, strong and to the point. That’s what U.S. President Joe Biden addressed in comments about improving children’s privacy and online safety in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
The White House gave the public notice of Biden’s planned remarks, giving the privacy community something to look forward to with the address. While the president’s words were no different from what was prepared, the message was crystal clear.
“It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand that tech companies stop collecting personal data about our children,” Biden said, discussing the need to improve the overall well-being of children as part of his United States agenda. He added. that social media platforms should be held accountable for the “national experiment they are running on our children for profit.”
Before Biden’s call, the U.S. Congress expressed a desire to strengthen online protections for children, including additional privacy measures, content moderation and bans on activities that may exploit minors. Even with a bipartisan view on the issue, Biden’s words have different effects depending on the lawmaker.
“(President Biden) is issuing a call to action on a youth mental health crisis exacerbated by social media,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, R-Conn. said via Twitter after the performance. “Children and parents need to be given (with) tools and protections from toxic online content. The My Kids Online Safety Act will do just that and hold Big Tech accountable.”
Blumenthal was among those who took Biden’s comments as an order or a challenge, but others in Congress have only now put the remarks to Biden on record.
“I applaud President Biden for joining our call, and I urge my Democratic colleagues to stop stalling and prioritize comprehensive privacy legislation and tackling the harms of big technology to children,” Congresswoman Cathy McMorris said in a statement. Rogers, Washington. McMorris Rogers was referring to the privacy work being done by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, suggesting that Democrats need to begin “reviewing and engaging” with existing proposals.
The essence of the problem
Biden’s appeal was concise, but the subject matter was broad and multi-layered. The increase in children’s Internet activity even before the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the consideration of a number of new issues. Chief among these challenges is that children are accessing the Internet at a younger age than ever before.
“The Children’s Online Privacy Act was an excellent piece of legislation that provided a strong framework to support parental control over the collection and use of their children’s personal information, but it only addresses users under the age of 13,” said PlayWell President Lynnette Attai. “There’s a common-sense argument that says a young teenager is really no better equipped to fully understand the complexities of data collection and use than a 12-year-old.”
According to LinkedIn Vice President and Head of Global Privacy Kalinda Reyna, CIPP/USA, the few opportunities offered to both children and adults to learn or understand general concepts of children’s privacy and user rights are also problematic.
“I talk to teachers and parents who don’t fully understand the risks — and even if they do — don’t feel like they have the tools or the knowledge to help protect kids,” Raina said. “A curriculum should be developed from kindergarten to help children understand issues such as data privacy, online advertising and cyberbullying, and how to protect themselves and others. The current proposals do a great job of holding technology companies accountable, but I think they also need to address educational needs.”
The hyperfocus on social media companies and the spread of online advertising is justified, but the views presented by Biden and federal lawmakers lack a broader view of protections. COPPA contains many applicable provisions to regulate online problems and harms, but the law was last updated a decade ago, while the Internet has continued to evolve. The existing regulatory proposals were more targeted and addressed those areas that may need more attention.
“We need to look at all of young people’s online interactions — education, gaming, online advertising and social media — and develop laws that protect children in all of these situations, as well as those we haven’t even imagined yet,” she said. Rayna. “If we focus on just one issue like social media, we won’t be creating the policies and protections that will continue to protect children in the next iteration of the Internet and beyond.”
Answer the call
Congress has no shortage of proposals in each chamber worth considering. In the Senate, Blumenthal, as well as Sens. Marsha Blackburn, D-TN, Ed Markey, D-Mass., and others have been offering new proposals over the past year, while the House has bills from McMorris Rogers and Rep. Kathy Castor, R-Massachusetts. Florida and Lori Trahan, D-Mass.
Markey, the original author of COPPA, preempted Biden’s call with one of his own about the need to pass the Child and Adolescent Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits companies from collecting data from teens under 16 without their consent. . Attai said the marquee proposal, which was re-introduced in a few years, could gain traction given that “the appetite for the idea may be greater now than ever.”
Both Attai and Raina are interested in the protections proposed by Blumenthal and Blackburn in the Children’s Online Safety Act. This bill has the same coverage for children under 16 as Markey’s bill, but is more about limiting the impact of algorithms and targeted advertising on minors.
“This includes ‘privacy and security by default’ requirements for users under 16, requiring companies to act in the best interests of users under 16 and to be transparent about and prevent foreseeable risks of harm both online and offline by her using the platform,” Attai said.
Raina appreciates KOSA’s steps to provide parents with resources to ensure the overall safety of children while addressing the challenges of modern technology.
“I think KOSA has a long way to go to cover some technologies that didn’t exist when COPPA was passed in 1998,” Raina said. “Given that teenagers are one of the most vulnerable populations to the more negative aspects of the internet—body image issues, bullying, and tech addiction—I’m thrilled that KOSA is setting a baseline for all businesses.”