Children's Online Protection Bills Getting Senate Commerce Vetting

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

The Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday (July 27)  is marking up a one-two punch against Big Tech and in defense of children's health and privacy.

In addition to the Kids Online Safety Act, which stems from hearings in which both Republicans and Democrats grilled Facebook and others over issues including body image, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide in particular and mental health in general, it is also marking up an updated version of Sen. Ed Markey's online child, and now teen, data protection bill.

The Children and Teens’ Only Privacy and Protection Act (or COPPA 2.0, as author Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) dubs it) updates the 1998 COPPA law, which only had "Children" in the name to extend protections to 13-16-year olds (the original bill stopped at 12).

The new bill, if it makes it out of committee Wednesday, would:

Ban advertising targeted to kids (as distinguished from contextual advertising in content targeted to children.

Change COPPA's "actual knowledge" standard to a "constructive knowledge" standard, which means websites "should reasonably know" that children are on their sites and they need to get consent to collect data.

Require online companies to explain what personal information is being collected, how it is being used and disclosed and their collection policies.

Require that internet-connected devices for kids have robust cybersecurity.

Require manufacturers of connected devices targeted to kids and minors to include on their packaging disclosures of how information is collected, transmitted, retained, used and protected.

Given the current bipartisan push to rein in Big Tech, both bills could make it to the President's desk.

Sen. Markey said he thought the Facebook whistleblower, who testified before the committee, had changed the dynamic of the push to protect children online and pass "historic" legislation. ■

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.