Cybersecurity » FTC Proposes Sweeping Changes to Strengthen Children’s Online Privacy Protections

FTC Proposes Sweeping Changes to Strengthen Children’s Online Privacy Protections

FTC Proposes Sweeping Changes to Strengthen Children's Online Privacy Protections

December 28, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed significant changes to enhance the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a key federal rule safeguarding children’s privacy online, according to the New York Times. The proposed changes aim to strengthen regulations that restrict online tracking of children by platforms such as social media apps, video game platforms, toy retailers, and digital advertising networks.

The suggested modifications include requiring certain online services to disable targeted advertising by default for children under 13, prohibiting the use of personal details (such as a child’s cellphone number) to encourage extended platform usage, and limiting the duration of data retention by online services. Additionally, the proposed updates seek to enhance security requirements for services collecting children’s data and restrict the collection of student data by educational technology providers.

The FTC’s chair, Lina M. Khan, emphasized the need for children to play and learn online without constant tracking by companies seeking to monetize their personal data. The proposal aims to shift the responsibility for online safety from parents to digital services, imposing affirmative obligations on service providers and prohibiting them from outsourcing responsibilities to parents.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted in 1998, requires online services targeted at children or aware of children on their platform to obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or sharing personal details of children under 13. The proposed changes come amid increased public concern over potential risks to the mental health and safety of young people online, including inappropriate content and distractions in educational settings.

The FTC’s proposal received mixed reactions from industry trade groups. The Software and Information Industry Association expressed gratitude for considering outside input, while NetChoice, representing platforms like TikTok, Snap, Amazon, Google, and Meta, argued that the changes could override parents’ preferences and make it harder for websites to provide necessary services to children. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposals before the commission’s vote.

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