Browse all articles

Congress Acts to Better Protect Kids' Privacy

Common Sense supports the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2018, a comprehensive children's and teen's online privacy bill that would expand and enhance COPPA.

By now, you've probably heard that, unlike Europe, the U.S. has no general privacy laws outside specific areas like health, education, or finance, which is largely true. But the U.S. does broadly protect kids' digital privacy and has done so for over two decades, thanks to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In fact, the parental consent framework of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is modeled after COPPA, whereby companies are supposed to ask parents' permission before collecting or using their children's personal information.

But with the explosive growth of "smart" devices and enhanced tracking technology, even laws like COPPA, which was designed to grow and change through regular FTC rulemakings, can better protect kids. The U.S. can, and should, also protect young teens; research has yet to demonstrate a magic shift in privacy understanding at 13, but COPPA protections vanish entirely for kids after the age of 12. (And since there's no general adult law, teens are left with nothing.)

This is why Common Sense is thrilled to support the bipartisan Do Not Track Kids Act of 2018, introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas), as well as Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

Take action today!

This comprehensive children's and teen's online privacy bill would expand and enhance COPPA to address the growing challenges posed by the Internet of Things and promote safer connected devices that parents and kids could more easily evaluate. And, importantly, it would also provide these rights and protections to young teenagers, who would consent on their own behalfs. The bill would also enable a youth eraser button, ensuring young people could delete posts and photos they don't want following them into adulthood. (Speaking of eraser buttons, Common Sense is also pleased to support Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's bill S 2965, introduced with Sen. Markey, which would expand eraser button rights to allow people of any age to go back and delete what they shared while under the age of 13.)

Do Not Track Kids would:

  • Provide parents of children under 13 and teens with control and choice over online tracking.
  • Empower parents of children under 13 and teens with the right to delete content they themselves post online.
  • Prohibit personalized targeted marketing to children entirely and prohibit such marketing to teens without their permission.
  • Require children's and teens' connected devices to have a privacy dashboard on their packaging, explaining information-collection practices and security provisions.
  • Prohibit the sale of insecure connected devices to children and teens.

All of us deserve the right to privacy online and the opportunity to make informed choices about how our data is used and shared. And it's especially important that we protect the most vulnerable among us -- our children and teens -- on platforms and devices they use on a daily basis. Contact your lawmaker about supporting the Do Not Track Kids Act today.

Ariel Fox Johnson
Ariel Fox Johnson is Senior Counsel for Global Policy at Common Sense Media, where she advocates for smart practices, policies, and rules to help all kids thrive in today’s wired world. Her work focuses on enhancing family privacy rights, strengthening students' educational privacy, and promoting robust consumer protections in the online world. She frequently advises policymakers, industry, and tech experts, and has helped develop laws on student privacy, consumer privacy, and the Internet of Things. Ariel is a graduate of Harvard College and Law School. Prior to joining Common Sense, Ariel worked on privacy, media, intellectual property, and technology matters at corporate law firms, and provided pro bono assistance to nonprofits and asylum seekers.