With bipartisan support, Do Not Track Kids legislation returns in Congress

Senate and House members have re-introduced a bill to protect children’s online data. It would update the 20-year-old COPPA.

Patience Wait
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Patience Wait Contributing Writer

Patience Wait is a freelance writer and former journalist, covering the information technology market for industry-leading trade sites. She has won...

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The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was enacted in 1998, when today's internet barely existed. Google was founded that same year. Facebook didn’t get started until 2004. Twitter came in 2006, the first iPhone in 2007, Pinterest and Instagram in 2010.

Because the authors of that 20-year-old law could not predict the ways in which technology would become intertwined with children’s lives, they also could not guess how it would change and heighten risks to kids’ data — and their privacy.

To address these growing risks, both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill now have re-introduced the “Do Not Track Kids Act,” a bill to update COPPA. The legislation would expand and enhance current rules for collecting, using and disclosing the personal information of children under the age of 16, rather than under 13 as set in the current law. The new bill also creates an "eraser button" so parents and kids can eliminate publicly available personal information submitted by the child.

On the House side, Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Bobby Rush, D-Ill., introduced H.R. 5930 on May 23; in the Senate, Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced S. 2932 on May 24.

When he was in the House of Representatives, Markey helped author COPPA. Afterward, he and Barton together co-sponsored legislation in multiple sessions of Congress — every session since 2011, in fact — to update the law, but it always died in committee.

This time around, staff in Markey’s office said, the political landscape has shifted dramatically in light of the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, and Americans are calling for these types of baseline protections.

The four congressmen issued a joint statement on May 23 emphasizing how the bill would help families.

“This particular legislation puts the control back into the hands of the parents by allowing them to better protect their children’s personal information and would require consent before kids and teens receive targeted advertisements," Barton said. "I believe this legislation is an important step in protecting minors from online and mobile tracking, targeted advertising and data collection.”

Markey noted that the internet "can be a child’s 21st century playground," and families want more power over how children interact with the online world.

"As we see every day the implications when personal information gets hacked, I hope the least we can do is come together on a bipartisan basis to provide a privacy bill of rights for children and minors in our country,” Markey said.

The “Do Not Track Kids” Act is intended to strengthen privacy protections for children and minors by:

  • Prohibiting internet companies from collecting personal and location information from anyone under 13 without parental consent and anyone 13 to 15 years old without the user's consent.
  • Prohibiting targeted online advertising to children.
  • Establishing a “Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Minors” that limits the collection of personal information of minors, including geolocation information of children and minors.
  • Creating an "Eraser Button" for parents and children by requiring companies to permit users to eliminate publicly available personal information content submitted by the child, when technologically feasible.
  • Requiring online companies to explain the types of personal information collected, how that information is used and disclosed, and the policies for collection of personal information.

A member of Markey’s staff said the bill includes some fresh provisions that apply to internet-connected devices. The legislation would:

  • Prohibit the sale of internet-connected devices targeted toward children and minors unless they meet robust cybersecurity and data security standards, which are established by the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Require manufacturers of connected devices targeted toward children and teens to prominently display on the packaging of those devices a privacy dashboard detailing to what extent the sensitive information is collected, transmitted, retained, used and protected.

Reach the reporter at pwaitster@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @edscoop_news.

-In this Story-

Education IT News, K-12, Policy, COPPA, student privacy, Do Not Track Kids Act, Ed Markey, Joe Barton, Bobby Rush, Richard Blumenthal

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