U.S. Regulators Propose New Online Privacy Safeguards for Children

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday proposed sweeping changes to bolster the key federal rule that has protected children’s privacy online, in one of the most significant attempts by the U.S. government to strengthen consumer privacy online in more than a decade.

The changes are intended to strengthen the rules underlying the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Regulators said the moves would “shift the burden” of online safety from parents to apps and other digital services while curbing how platforms may use and monetize children’s data.

Among other things, the proposed changes would require certain online services to turn off targeted advertising by default for children under 13. They would prohibit the online services from using personal details like a child’s cellphone number to induce youngsters to stay on their platforms longer. That means online services would no longer be able to use personal data to bombard young children with push notifications.

The proposed updates would also strengthen security requirements for online services that collect children’s data as well as limit the length of time online services could keep that information. And they would limit the collection of student data by learning apps and other educational-tech providers, by allowing schools to consent to the collection of children’s personal details only for educational purposes, not commercial purposes.

“Kids must be able to play and learn online without being endlessly tracked by companies looking to hoard and monetize their personal data,” Lina M. Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, said in a statement on Wednesday. “By requiring firms to better safeguard kids’ data, our proposal places affirmative obligations on service providers and prohibits them from outsourcing their responsibilities to parents.”

Lina M. Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commision, said children must be able to play and learn online “without being endlessly tracked by companies.”Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times

How online services will comply with such proposed changes is not yet known.Members of the public have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes to the children’s privacy rule. Then the commission will vote on them.

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