Jan 30, 2020 - Technology

Democrat adds another proposal to update kids' privacy law

A photo of Rep. Kathy Castor standing in the foreground of other Congresswomen.
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.

A House Democrat on Thursday introduced a bill that would let parents sue companies that violate their kids' digital privacy, marking the latest of several attempts in Congress to update laws protecting children's privacy on the internet.

Why it matters: Both chambers want to include children's privacy protections in a comprehensive federal privacy law, but if that effort fails, a more narrow update to the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act could advance on its own.

Driving the news: Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.)'s PRotecting the Information of our Vulnerable Children and Youth Act (PRIVCY Act) would give both the Federal Trade Commission and parents enhanced powers.

  • The bill would raise the FTC's maximum penalty per violation by 50 percent, and allow parents to bring civil actions for companies that inappropriately collect or use their kids' data.
  • It would also ban companies from targeted advertising to children and make companies get express consent before collecting data from anyone under 18.
  • While COPPA currently applies to children under 13, the bill would create a protected class for teenagers from 13 to 17 that would allow them to control what companies can do with their personal information.

What's next: Castor's offering joins a bipartisan update on COPPA from fellow Energy & Commerce Committee members Rep. Tim Walberg and Bobby Rush.

  • "We're going to look at all those pieces of legislation [and] take the best from whatever we see," E&C consumer protection subcommittee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky told Axios for an upcoming episode of C-SPAN's "The Communicators."
  • It "remains to be seen" whether lawmakers will try and fold a COPPA update into broader privacy legislation or move it on a standalone basis, Castor said on a press call Thursday.
  • In the Senate, Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced legislation in March to add privacy protections for children under 16 and ban targeted ads to kids.
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