The FTC says that current protections are outdated and don’t do enough to protect kids from Big Data.
The Federal Trade Commission is considering an update to the United States’ online child’s-privacy law.
The Washington Post reports that the FTC is pondering an expansion of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The rule first went into effect in 2000 but hasn’t been updated in a half-decade. Regulators believe that technology is progressing so fast that today’s internet may’ve outpaced COPPA’s limits.
Before it makes any move, the FTC is seeking expert input and public feedback. Any changes to COPPA include websites and applications that cater primarily to children, as well as platforms that have large numbers of underage users, like YouTube.
TechCrunch.com notes that the FTC’s announcement “comes only weeks after U.S. consumer advocacy groups and Senator Ed. Markey (D-Mass.) sent complaint letters to the FTC,” asking the agency to investigate YouTube for potential COPPA violations.
Markey and his allies say that YouTube’s terms of service are misleading. While the Google-owned video-sharing website says it isn’t “intended for children under 13,” that statement clearly isn’t true. YouTube hosts plenty of kids’ programming and doesn’t request age verification for videos without explicit sexual content or graphic violence.
“In light of rapid technological changes that impact the online children’s marketplace, we must ensure COPPA remains effective,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in an online statement. “We’re committed to strong COPPA enforcement, as well as industry outreach and a COPPA business hotline to foster a high level of COPPA compliance. But we also need to regularly revisit and, if warranted, update the Rule.”
The commission’s decision to launch an inquiry was unanimous, with both Democrats and Republicans voting in favor.
Angela Campbell, a Georgetown University law professor, said it’s obvious COPPA has its limits in the modern marketplace.
“I can only speculate that in trying to determine whether companies were violating COPPA, it became clear that there were many situations where the rules were ambiguous, did not clearly cover privacy-invasive conduct or were simply ineffective,” Campbell said.
However, the Washington Post suggests COPPA has limitations that could make it difficult for the FTC to perform a comprehensive overhaul. According to the Post and its legal experts, Congress might have to act.
Sen. Markey’s already sponsored a bill that would protect kids up to age 15, while also broadening COPPA to include companies that don’t specifically cater to children but still have many underage users. Markey said that, even if the FTC updates the rule, it won’t “eliminate the dire need for Congress” to pass another law.
“But if the Commission is truly serious about protecting young people online, it will enforce existing protections, hold violators accountable no matter how powerful they are, and act as a forceful check against the ever-increasing appetite for children’s data,” Markey said.