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EdTech Tools Coming Under FTC Scrutiny Over Children’s Privacy

May 13, 2022, 4:39 PM

The Federal Trade Commission is planning to scrutinize educational technology in its enforcement of children’s online privacy rules.

The commission is slated to vote at a May 19 meeting on a policy statement related to how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act applies to edtech tools, according to an agenda issued Thursday.

The law, known as COPPA, gives parents control over what information online platforms can collect about their kids. Parents concerned about data that digital learning tools collect from children have called for stronger oversight of technology increasingly used in schools.

The FTC’s policy statement “makes clear that parents and schools must not be required to sign up for surveillance as a condition of access to tools needed to learn,” the meeting notice said.

It’s the first agency meeting since Georgetown University law professor Alvaro Bedoya was confirmed as a member of the five-seat commission, giving Chair Lina Khan a Democratic majority needed to pursue policy goals. Bedoya has said he wants to strengthen protections for children’s digital data.

Companies that violate COPPA can face fines from the FTC. Past enforcement actions under the law have been brought against companies including TikTok and Google’s YouTube.

Alphabet Inc.‘s Google has come under legal scrutiny for collecting data on users of its educational tools and relying on schools to give consent for data collection on parents’ behalf.

New Mexico’s attorney general recently settled a lawsuit against Google that alleged COPPA violations. Since the suit was filed in 2020, Google has launched new features to protect children’s data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Tonia Moore at tmoore@bloombergindustry.com