FTC Seeks to Implement Stricter Regulations for Protecting Children’s Privacy on the Internet

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put forth a proposal to adjust an already existing law, with the aim to limit the capacity of websites to gather, disclose and monetize children’s personal information. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires website operators to obtain explicit parental consent before gathering personal data from kids under 13 years old. The COPPA rule also impairs what personal data websites and other online services can collect from children, limits the duration they can keep such data, and mandates they secure the data. FTC chair Lina Khan commented that children should have a space to play and learn online “without being endlessly tracked by companies looking to hoard and monetize their personal data.”

Ms. Khan also added, “The proposed changes to COPPA are much-needed, especially in an era where online tools are essential for navigating daily life—and where firms are deploying increasingly sophisticated digital tools to surveil children.” The proposed shift would necessitate operators to obtain “separate verifiable parental consent” before divulging children’s personal data to third parties unless the disclosure is “integral” to the nature of the website. Operators would also be barred from utilizing online “persistent identifiers” to enhance user engagement with the website, like sending push notifications, without obtaining parental consent.

The FTC is also proposing preventing operators from manipulating certain COPPA exceptions to send push notifications which encourage children to enhance their usage of the website or online services. Additionally, operators would only be allowed to keep children’s personal information “for as long as necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected” and would be barred from using retained information for secondary purposes. Operators would need to create and implement a written children’s personal information security program with appropriate safeguards for the information collected from kids.

The public would have 60 days to submit comments on the proposed changes to the COPPA Rule after the notice is published in the Federal Register. Katharina Kopp, director of policy at the Center for Digital Democracy, said the new rules provide “urgently needed” online safeguards for children. Haley Hinkle, policy counsel at Fairplay, urged people to support the proposed new rules, especially if they believe that children should be able to play online without being tracked.

In May, the FTC alleged that Meta had failed to comply with a 2020 privacy order and proposed expanding its scope to prohibit the company from monetizing the data of children and teens. On Nov. 27, a Washington federal court ruled that FTC could move ahead with modifying the order. In response, the company filed a lawsuit at the same court on Nov. 29, asking it to “permanently” prohibit such FTC proceedings. Meta also called the FTC’s proposed expansion of the 2020 privacy order a “political stunt.”


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