FTC weighs updating kids’ internet privacy rules

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to update its rules on internet privacy for children after renewed concerns about how tech companies are catering to, and collecting data on, young internet users.

The five FTC commissioners voted unanimously to seek public input on updating its regulations on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which went into effect nearly 20 years ago.

“In light of rapid technological changes that impact the online children’s marketplace, we must ensure COPPA remains effective,” FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said in a statement on Wednesday. “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 agency usually reviews its regulations every 10 years, and the last time it looked into the children’s privacy law was in 2013. In a draft notice to be published in the Federal Register, the FTC said it was launching a review early “because of questions that have arisen about the Rule’s application to the educational technology sector, to voice-enabled connected devices, and to general audience platforms that host third-party child-directed content.”

Under COPPA, websites must obtain parental consent before collecting data on children under 13.

“COPPA is the constitution for children’s privacy online, and as its author I have consistently advocated for thoughtful updates to the existing COPPA regime to keep pace with technological changes and emerging threats to kids,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

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