Legislators in the United States are struggling to regulate the collection and use of children’s data online. The current federal law governing this issue, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, has become outdated and insufficient in the face of rapid technological advancements and the rise of social media.
To address this gap, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates COPPA, published guidance in 2013 suggesting that websites should provide downloadable consent forms and require parents to authenticate their age and identity using credit cards or government-issued identification.
Despite these efforts, experts argue that COPPA provides limited protection, allowing children to be exploited data-driven digital marketing and entertainment systems. There have been allegations that certain platforms, like Facebook, have knowingly targeted Black children with harmful advertisements for products like diet pills and alcohol.
Furthermore, COPPA only applies to websites directed at children under 13 or those that knowingly collect data from them, leaving older children and teens vulnerable to data exploitation without adequate federal protections.
In response to the need for stronger regulations, lawmakers have proposed two bipartisan bills. The first, called the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, seeks to expand COPPA’s protections to cover all children up to the age of 16. It also introduces a provision for an “eraser button” that allows users to delete personal information collected from children and teens.
The second bill, known as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), mandates website operators to establish safeguards for protecting children’s data and provides tools for parents to monitor their children’s online presence. KOSA also requires transparency in data collection through the disclosure of datasets and algorithms for research purposes.
Unfortunately, both bills were excluded from the fiscal year 2023 funding plan, with some lawmakers blaming the influence and lobing power of the technology industry. However, opposition to the bills also came from human rights advocacy groups, raising concerns about potential risks to children’s safety and free speech online.
Despite these setbacks, it is likely that Congress will revisit these bills in the future as more reports highlight the dangers of children’s internet usage. However, finding a balance between protecting children’s privacy, maintaining free speech online, and ensuring child safety will be a complex task for legislators.
– Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA)
– Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
– Center for Digital Democracy
– Color of Change
– Center for Democracy & Technology
– American Civil Liberties Union