Online platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube would need to obtain teenagers’ permission before collecting their personal information, under a bipartisan bill that’s the latest bid to modernize a decades-old law for the social media age.
The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act—set to be reintroduced Wednesday by Sens.
The proposal’s return follows the revival of a related bill from Sens.
Both bills saw strong approval at the committee level last year but failed to reach a Senate floor vote as lawmakers have struggled to reach consensus on how to regulate big tech companies.
The measures reflect a nationwide spotlight on tech companies’ efforts to shield kids and teens from potential online dangers. Parents and school districts across the US have sued companies like
The US Surgeon General has also issued an advisory calling attention to mental health challenges among American youth, citing the Covid-19 pandemic’s forced isolation and increased screen time as possible contributing factors.
Markey’s office is hopeful that this heightened focus on children’s digital lives will bring added political momentum to passing the legislation. Bipartisan kids-focused bills are expected to fare better than other efforts to rein in big tech companies during a Congress divided between Democratic and Republican leadership.
Proposed FTC Office
Markey and Cassidy’s bill, last introduced in 2021, would block online platforms from collecting teens’ personal data without their consent. Current law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, requires parental permission for gathering data about kids under age 13.
Companies that violate COPPA can face enforcement action and fines from the Federal Trade Commission. In December, the agency fined Epic Games, the maker of the popular Fortnite game, $275 million—the largest penalty to date under the kids’ privacy law.
The senators’ COPPA proposal would set up a new unit at the agency that concentrates on youth marketing and privacy.
The bill also would revise the existing privacy law’s standards so that companies must seek consent for data collection when their platforms are “reasonably likely” to be used by children. COPPA currently applies to websites or apps with “actual knowledge” that they’re handling data on users under 13.
Children’s advocates have argued that stricter standards are needed, since some kids lie about their age to create accounts on social media.
Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of age-ratings nonprofit Common Sense Media, called the proposed data protections for kids and teens “long overdue.”
“For far too long, social media companies have amassed troves of young users’ private information that they then use to bombard their feeds with targeted ads and harmful content,” Steyer said in a statement. “It’s time to prioritize kids’ mental health and well-being by protecting their private data and online experiences.”
The bills from Markey, Cassidy, Blumenthal, and Blackburn also got backing from Design It For Us, a coalition of young activists and organizations advocating for safer social media and online platforms. The group applauded the legislation’s focus on regulating how tech companies design their products, rather than leaving it up to kids or parents to mitigate risks.
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