FTC Proposes COPPA Changes To Protect Kids Online

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking steps to fortify protections for children in the digital landscape. Proposed updates to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) aim to address loopholes enabling tech companies to surveil kids and regulate the sharing and retention of children’s data.

FTC Chair Lina Khan emphasized the necessity of these changes in an era where online tools are integral to everyday life. “Kids should navigate the internet without incessant tracking and exploitation of their personal data by companies,” she stated in a blog post.

COPPA, established in 2000, remains effective in curbing excessive data collection and misuse concerning kids but hasn’t undergone significant updates since 2013. The FTC gathered feedback on potential rule changes, receiving over 175,000 comments from various stakeholders, including parents, educators, and industry experts.

Now, the agency plans to release a draft of the revised COPPA rules, inviting public commentary and criticism over the next 60 days through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The timeline for this depends on its appearance in the Federal Register, expected in the coming weeks.

Proposed updates to COPPA include:

  1. Requiring parental consent before sharing any child’s information with third parties, unless integral to the service.
  2. Closing loopholes around “support for internal operations” to prevent indefinite data retention by companies like Amazon.
  3. Ensuring better justifications for nudges like push notifications targeted at children.
  4. Prohibiting apps from coercing kids into providing personal data for incentives.
  5. Restricting data retention beyond its intended use, adding safeguards against misuse.
  6. Allowing schools to authorize educational use of students’ data by edtech providers.
  7. Expanding the definition of “personal information” to include biometrics.

Senator Brian Schatz hailed these updates as a step towards shielding young social media users from constant surveillance and manipulation. However, he urged legislative action to complement these changes, emphasizing the need for laws setting age limits for social media use and prohibiting algorithmic targeting of children.

The reality of legislative action remains uncertain given the current state of Congress, suggesting that these FTC rules might remain the primary safeguard for the foreseeable future.