WASHINGTON, DC and BOSTON, MA – December 5, 2019 – A coalition of 31 advocacy groups is urging the Federal Trade Commission to use its subpoena authority to obtain information from leading digital media companies that target children online. In comments filed today by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown and organized by Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the coalition explained the opaque data and digital marketing practices targeting kids. The comments are filed with the FTC as part of its early review of the rules protecting children under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The advocates’ call was supported by Sesame Workshop, the leading producer of children’s educational programming, in a separate filing.
To better assess the impacts on children from today’s digital data-driven advertising system, and features such as cross-device tracking, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, and real-time measurement—the advocates urge the commission to gather and analyze data from leading companies that target children. Any proposed changes to COPPA must be based on empirical data, which is consistent with calls by Commissioners Wilson, Phillips, and Simons that rulemaking must be evidence-based.
In their comments, the organizations ask the FTC to use its authority under rule 6(b) to:
– Examine today’s methods of advertising to children and their impact, including their discriminatory effects
– Examine practices concerning data collection and retention
– Illuminate children’s presence on “general audience” platforms and those platforms’ awareness of children’s presence
– Identify how the data of children is being used by contemporary data platforms, including “marketing clouds,” “identity management” systems, in-house data management platforms, and data brokers
– Illuminate the efficacy—or lack thereof—of safe harbors
Groups that have signed the comments are Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood; Center for Digital Democracy; American Academy of Pediatrics; Badass Teachers Association; Berkeley Media Studies Group; Center for Science in the Public Interest; Children and Screens; Color of Change; Common Sense Media; Consumer Action; Consumer Federation of America; Consumer Federation of California; Consumer Reports; Consumer Watchdog; Corporate Accountability; Defending the Early Years; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Electronic Privacy Information Center; Obligation, Inc.; Parent Coalition for Student Privacy; Parents Across America; Parents Television Council; P.E.A.C.E. (Peace Educators Allied For Children Everywhere)(link is external); Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; Public Citizen; Public Knowledge; The Story of Stuff; TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Childhood Entertainment); UnidosUS; United Church of Christ; and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).
The following can be attributed to Katie McInnis, Policy Counsel, Consumer Reports:
“We’re glad the FTC is asking for comments on the implementation of COPPA through the 2013 COPPA rule. But the Commission should have the fullest possible picture of how children’s personal information is being collected and used before it considers any changes. It’s well-documented that compliance with COPPA is uneven among apps, connected toys, and online services. The FTC must fully understand how kids’ personal information is treated before the 2013 rule can be modified, in order to ensure that children and their data are protected.”