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Sen. Markey Tees Up Kids’ Online Privacy Bill

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, will team with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) on new kids do-not- track privacy legislation, which would also apply to teen-agers 15 and under.

Markey has signaled he would turn his attention to more online kids’ privacy protections as a senator, as he did as a House member, as soon as the government resolved the immediate threat of a debt-ceiling shutdown.


With that impasse now resolved, at least until January, “Senator Markey plans to introduce his bipartisan do-not- track kids legislation with Rep. Joe Barton in the coming weeks,” a Markey aide said.

When both were in the House, Markey and Barton were co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus and teamed on a kids’ do-not-track bill that could not gain traction in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Markey has not wasted any time gearing up for his online privacy-protection push. Even before the government was un-shuttered, he sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on Oct. 12 asking it to investigate Google’s Terms of Service update enabling the company to display user names, photos and other info in online ads unless users explicitly opt out.

Then, two weeks ago, Markey expressed concerns about Facebook’s policy change to allow teen-agers 13 to 17 to start sharing their information publicly and to have their posts followed on news feeds as giving them the same choices as other social media sites. Facebook has said teens are among the “savviest” users of social media and the change is simply giving them the same choices as other social media sites.

Facebook also changed its default setting for teens so that they start out with more privacy, sharing only with “friends” rather than “friends of friends,” which had been the initial setting for ages 13 to 17.


“While I am pleased that the new initial privacy choice for Facebook’s teen users offers more protection than the previous default setting, the addition of an option to share all information publicly raises serious concerns for a vulnerable and impressionable age group that deserves additional safeguards,” Markey said. “Now is the time we put children’s privacy laws on the books, including an ‘eraser button’ tool for parents and children so that what kids say online does not come back to haunt them when they apply for college or jobs.”

Markey’s do-not-track bill could fare better in the Democratic-controlled Senate, particularly given that the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has been among the most vocal proponents of protecting kids across all media.


Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) plans to introduce bipartisan kids’ do-not-track legislation with the aid of an old House ally on the issue, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).