A bipartisan duo of senators introduced a bill today that would strengthen protections for kids on the internet. It’s an update of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, a foundational federal privacy law. Senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced the measure, which contains a number of different provisions to increase internet safety for kids.
Companies like Facebook, Google, and TikTok are, under COPPA, prohibited from collecting personal data and location information for kids 12 and younger without explicit parental consent. The new law would add protections for kids aged 13-15, requiring their (but not their parent’s) consent for such collection.
Parents and kids would also gain access to a so-called “eraser button” that would let them delete all of the kid’s data from a particular service. Companies would be barred by retaliating against people who pressed the button by banning them from their services.
The law also bans advertising directed at children and requires more transparency from online companies that collect children’s information. They would be forced to explain the type of personal information to be collected, how it’s used, and what their collection policies are.
Manufacturers of internet-connected devices aimed at kids would have to ensure their products meet lofty security standards. Packaging for such projects would carry a privacy dashboard that makes it clear how sensitive information about kids is collected, transmitted, retained, used, and protected.
Markey, the principal author of the original COPPA, called his latest proposal “legislation that puts children’s well-being at the top of Congress’s priority list,” continuing to say that “If we can agree on anything, it should be that children deserve strong and effective protections online.”
Hawley added: “Congress needs to get serious about keeping our children’s information safe, and it begins with safeguarding their digital footprint online.”
The bill would also create a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the FTC tasked with monitoring children’s privacy and the marketing directed at them. It was celebrated by a wide swath of interest groups, from the arch-conservative Focus on the Family to the progressive activist group Color of Change.