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Update of last year’s COPPA overhaul would include biometrics restrictions

Update of last year’s COPPA overhaul would include biometrics restrictions

An update to the U.S.’ well-known children’s online data privacy law has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives. It would strengthen and expand current protections, and goes further in some areas addressed in last year’s version of the bill.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, author of this and the previous legislation, has said she wants to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. But the draft released last week reads like Castor wants to address what children’s privacy advocates and biometric data privacy advocates have long said are needlessly narrow COPPA provisions.

One of those areas is the definition of personal information. Both iterations of the proposed bill include biometrics under that heading.

New in the proposed 2021 act (last year’s effort died in committee) is a prohibition on targeting children under 18 years old with advertising based on their personal information.

Also, sites that those under 18 are likely to visit would have to be designed in a way that tries to protect children’s privacy. A brief analysis of the proposal in The National Law Review traces this and other ideas back to the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code.

In fact, the House bill’s full package of restrictions would apply to sites likely to attract children.

The Law Review article holds out several expansions over COPPA, including giving parents the right to sue for violations. It would put more muscle into the Federal Trade Commission’s ability to enforce the provision.

It is anyone’s guess whether the proposed legislation can survive the antagonistic forces paralyzing Washington.

A trade group called NetChoice’s best argument is that the regulation would make the online experiences of children lame. Twitter, Amazon, Google, Facebook and TikTok are among the group’s members.

About 20 advocacy groups support Castor’s bill, including Common Sense Media, the Center for Digital Democracy and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A deep tranche of COPPA coverage can be found here.

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