Yet more senators are trying to resurrect legislation aimed at protecting kids’ online privacy. Senators Bill Cassidy and Ed Markey have reintroduced a “COPPA 2.0” (Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act) bill that would expand and revise the 1998 law to deal with the modern internet, particularly social media.
COPPA 2.0 would bar companies from gathering personal data from teens aged 13 to 16 without their consent. It would ban all targeted advertising to children and teens, and create a “bill of rights” that limits personal info gathering for marketing purposes. The measure would also require a button to let kids and parents delete personal data when it’s “technologically feasible.”
The sequel potentially makes it easier to take action in the first place. Where COPPA requires direct knowledge that companies are collecting data from kids under 13, 2.0 would cover apps and services that are “reasonably likely” to have children as users. The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, would have to establish a division committed to regulating youth marketing and privacy.
Cassidy and Markey portray the bill as necessary to tackle a “mental health crisis” where tech giants allegedly play a role. The politicians argue that social networks amplify teens’ negative feelings, pointing to Facebook’s own research as evidence.
Social networks have tried to clamp down on misuses of child data. Meta’s Facebook and Instagram have limited ad targeting for teens, for instance. However, there have also been concerns that online platforms haven’t gone far enough. On top of earlier calls for bans on ad targeting, states like Arkansas and Utah have already passed laws respectively requiring age verification and parental permission for social media. Another Senate bill, the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, would require parents’ approval across the US.
Whether or not COPPA 2.0 makes it to the President’s desk for signature isn’t clear. The first attempt got stuck in committee ahead of the current Congress session. It also comes right as other senators are making attempts to revive the EARN IT Act (aimed at curbing child sexual abuse material) and the Kids Online Safety Act (meant to fight toxic online content as a whole). All three reintroductions are bipartisan, but they’ll need considerably stronger support in the Senate, plus successful equivalents in the House, to become law.