👶 It's Time To Talk About Online Child Privacy
About 66% of the most popular apps used by children on Apple's app store collect personal data and sell it to advertisers. Roughly 79% of the most popular apps used by children on Google's Play Store do the same. The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, mandates that such practices by these companies are illegal when targeting children under 13 without parental consent, but in a world that is increasingly mobile-centric, it's very easy for these safeguards to be circumvented. A common refrain by Big Tech is that they simply did not know it was a child using its services, or that the personal data collected and sold was of a minor. However, as the Washington Post says, by the time a child is 13, advertising firms hold an average 72 million data points on them.
“It was pretty obvious when the [COPPA] bill was being originally drafted that there was going to be a real opportunity for unscrupulous corporations to take advantage of young people,” Democratic Senator Ed Markey told the Post. “Now the problems are on steroids.”
As the Post adds, California may adopt a law similar to one in the UK to “establish the age of consumers and maintain the highest level of privacy possible for children by default.”
What The FTC Is Doing
Lina Khan, head of the FTC has been targeting Meta, Alphabet, Apple, and more, to curb data collection on children, reports NBC. She is going after EdTech (or education technology companies) who she alleges illegally spy on children and recently sued Weight Watchers for illegally collecting data on children under 13.
As we've written many times here, Big Tech has been able to run free and unregulated for the last 20-plus years. If the result has been the harvesting of personal data on young children for profit, then we're approaching a dark future. An update of the COPPA to close various loopholes is long overdue.