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Senate bill proposes stricter privacy controls for children

It would ban targeted ads and require an 'Eraser Button' for data.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
March 12, 2019
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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Some politicians don't believe the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act does enough to protect kids in the modern era, and they're hoping to update it accordingly. Senators Ed Markey and Josh Hawley have introduced a bill that would amend COPPA with stricter controls on kids' data. It would ban ads targeted at kids, and would require an "Eraser Button" that would let kids and parents wipe data. The measure would still ban the collection of personal data for kids under 13 without their parents' consent, but it would also ban collecting data from the 13- to 15-year-old crowd without the user's permission.

The bill would also ban the sale of connected toys and other child-oriented devices unless they can meet "robust" security standards, and would require that those devices have a privacy "dashboard" on their packaging that shows how they collect, use and secure data. Companies might also have a tougher time feigning ignorance of underage users: the amendment would change COPPA's requirement for "actual knowledge" of under-13 use to "constructive knowledge."

If the bill becomes law, it would give companies a year to implement many of the changes, including a requirement to clearly disclose their data collection.

The amendment could have significant ramifications for tech companies. App and website creators would have to create staggered data collection policies, and may need stricter age enforcement verification. You might also see fewer companies making child-focused connected devices, at least not without a better understanding of the risks involved.

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