Senators Markey and Hawley Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Update Children’s Online Privacy Rules

Legislation would extend protections for the first time to teens aged 13, 14, and 15 from having companies collect their personal and location information

Common Sense Media
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2019 – With increased tracking of children and teens online and the collection their personal data a widespread practice, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) today introduced legislation to update children's online privacy rules for the 21st century. The legislation updates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by prohibiting internet companies from collecting personal and location information from anyone under 13 without parental consent and from anyone 13- to 15-years old without the user's consent. The legislation also creates an "Eraser Button," so parents and kids can delete personal information and a "Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Minors" that limits the collection of personal information. The bill also establishes a first-of-its-kind Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which will be responsible for addressing the privacy of children and minors and marketing directed at children and minors.

"The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act remains the constitution for kids' privacy online, but today we introduce an accompanying bill of rights," said Senator Markey, original House author of COPPA. "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. 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. 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."

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

The legislation strengthens privacy protections specifically for children and minors by:

  • Prohibiting internet companies from collecting personal and location information from anyone under 13 without parental consent, and from anyone 13 to 15 years old without the user's consent

  • Banning targeted advertising directed at children

  • Revising COPPA's "Actual knowledge" standard to a "constructive knowledge" standard for the definition of covered operators

  • Requiring online companies to explain the types of personal information collected, how that information is used and disclosed, and the policies for collection of personal information

  • Prohibiting the sale of internet connected devices targeted towards children and minors unless they meet robust cyber security standards

  • Requiring manufacturers of connected devices targeted to children and minors to prominently display on their packaging a privacy dashboard detailing how sensitive information is collected, transmitted, retained, used, and protected.

"The Markey-Hawley bill rightly recognizes that the internet's prevailing business model is harmful to young people," said Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for Commercial-Free Children. "The bill's strict limits on how kids' data and can be collected, stored, and used – and its all-out ban on targeted ads for children under 13 – would give kids a chance to develop a healthy relationship with media without being ensnared by Big Tech's surveillance and marketing apparatuses. We commend Senators Markey and Hawley for introducing this landmark legislation and urge Congress to act quickly to put children's needs ahead of commercial interests."

"Today's kids are the most tracked generation. Without strong protections, lines drawn on what companies can and cannot do, and focused efforts by federal regulators, these businesses will continue to collect and monetize kids' data," said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. "While companies point to their lengthy and vague consent forms, children and teens are no match for the strategic, targeted marketing efforts designed by powerful companies to play on kids' need to belong or their fear of missing out. Common Sense strongly supports the bi-partisan effort to strengthen the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. It will play an important part in helping families better protect children and equally vulnerable teens from potential abuses online."

"Children and teens are at the epicenter of a pervasive driven-digital marketing system that is woven into the very fabric of their lives," said Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph.D, research director for the Center for Digital Democracy and Professor Emerita in the School of Communication at American University. "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. 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."

"The change to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act is a big step forward in curbing the unethical practices of tech giants who are eager put profit over the safety of our children," said Color Of Change, Senior Campaign Director Brandi Collins-Dexter. "We're pleased to see these changes include prohibiting ad targeting based on race and socioeconomic factors (or its proxies), psychological profile and geo-location on children up to the age of 15. Such anti-discrimination measures are an important intervention for children from vulnerable communities, who – from the age of four- are at greater risk for discriminatory advertising, employment, and marketing practices that have expanded into the digital space. We commend the leadership of Senators Markey and Hawley and Representative Rush in expanding privacy legislation to protect our civil rights online."

Other organization supporting the legislation include Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, American Principles Project, Children Now, Berkeley Media Studies Group, and the Public Health Institute.

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