This week, two senators proposed an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that, if passed, will significantly strengthen the protection of kids online.
The bill was introduced as a bipartisan effort by Sens. Ed Markey (D-WA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO). One aim of the bill is to introduce an “eraser button” so parents can remove their kids’ data from a service. If a parent uses it, a platform could not discontinue service to the user.
For example, if a parent had their kids’ data removed from Facebook or TikTok, the platform couldn’t try to force the kid off.
Currently, COPPA makes it so companies can’t collect personal data or location information from kids under the age of 13 without explicit parental consent. The bill strengthens this protection by extending it to kids up to the age of 15. For kids ages 13 to 15, companies will now require their consent in order to collect any data.
“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,” Hawley said in a statement, according to The Hill. “Congress needs to get serious about keeping our children’s information safe, and it begins with safeguarding their digital footprint online.”
In addition, the bill wants any internet-connected devices aimed at kids to meet “robust cyber security standards.” This is due to growing concerns around smart toys potentially spying on kids.
In 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned parents that “internet-connected toys could present privacy and contact concerns for children.”
The bill also wants to ban any advertising targeted at kids, and it will establish a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the Federal Trade Commission.
Privacy concerns regarding kids have been steadily mounting. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission hit TikTok’s parent company with a $5.7 million fine for violating COPPA. According to the FTC, TikTok didn’t get parental permission before collecting personal data from kids under 13.
“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,” Hawley said, according to The Hill. “If we can agree on anything, it should be that children deserve strong and effective protections online.”