On Tuesday 12 March, two bipartisan senators in the US have put forward a bill they hope will make considerable changes to the 1998 Children’s Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The planned adjustments, introduced by Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), will give children – and their parents – more control over what data companies can collect from them online.
Coppa, which was originally authored by Markey, currently prohibits companies from collecting personal data and location information belonging to children under the age of 13 without explicit parental consent.
The proposed law amendments would extend that age to 15, but instead of requiring parental consent, those aged 13 to 15 would be responsible for agreeing to their own data collection.
“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,” said Hawley in a statement.
“Congress needs to get serious about keeping our children’s information safe, and it begins with safeguarding their digital footprint online.”
Parents would also have the option to remove all their child’s data from a specific platform, such as TikTok, without it discontinuing service to that user. The senators are calling this the “Eraser Button”.
Another aspect of the bill focuses on targeted ads, and proposes to ban platforms from serving them to children under the age of 13.
Internet-connected devices and toys targeted at children would also have to come with a data collection disclosure on the packaging for parents to read and meet “robust cyber security standards.”
“In 2019, children and adolescents’ every move is monitored online, and even the youngest are bombarded with advertising when they go online to do their homework, talk to friends, and play games,” said Markey.
“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,” he said. “If we can agree on anything, it should be that children deserve strong and effective protections online.”
If the bill is approved, companies will have one year to comply with the new measures, including disclosing to users all the data it collects, how it’s used, and the ways in which it will ensure that data is not collected from children under 15 without consent.