WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) reintroduced the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0), legislation to update online data privacy rules for the 21st century to ensure children and teenagers are protected online. COPPA 2.0 would stop the data practices fueling today’s youth mental health crisis.
“Children and teenagers are going to use the internet. Parents should be confident their children are safe when doing so,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill prohibits internet companies from collecting personal information on young teenagers without consent.”
“Big Tech is knowingly fueling a mental health crisis in this country by exploiting kids and teens just so they can make an extra buck. It’s Congress’s job to stand up for young people and put an end to it,” said Senator Markey. “Congress must pass COPPA 2.0 to put immediate safeguards in place that prevent Big Tech from tracking, traumatizing, and targeting young people every second, every minute, and every hour of the day. I am proud of the protections guaranteed by my 1998 law, COPPA, but the fact remains that today’s online guardrails were written before the invention of the iPhone – the law has to evolve to meet the reality of today’s digital landscape. We won’t address the threats to young people if we don’t stop the data practices at the root of the problem. Privacy protections are worth fighting for, and I thank Senator Cassidy for his continued partnership as we build on the momentum we created last year and push to enact this legislation in the 118th Congress.”
Children and teens in the United States are facing a youth mental health crisis fueled, in part, by Big Tech. The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared a national emergency for children’s mental health; recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that one in ten high school girls contemplated suicide in the past year. Big Tech knowingly contributes to this devastating trend. Industry leaders’ own internal research shows that when young people feel bad about themselves, social media platforms make them feel worse.
Data shows that platforms’ data practices are a key contributor to the mental health crisis—there is a straight line from the glaring lack of privacy protections for children and teens to the decline in young people’s well-being. Kids and teens’ data is the raw material Big Tech uses to power algorithms that amplify toxic content, including posts promoting eating disorders and self-harm, which damage children and teens. Experts note that by amassing troves of data about children and teens, powerful online platforms are able to employ sophisticated amplification and recommendation systems that promote harmful content to young users and keep them glued to their screens. Personal information about young people is the input that apps and websites use to grab young people’s attention so that the platforms can increase advertising revenue at the expense of minors’ wellbeing.
Specifically, COPPA 2.0 would:
- Build on COPPA by prohibiting internet companies from collecting personal information from users who are 13 to 16 years old without their consent.
- Ban targeted advertising to children and teens.
- Revise COPPA’s “actual knowledge” standard, covering platforms that are “reasonably likely to be used” by children and protecting users who are “reasonably likely to be” children or minors.
- Create an “Eraser Button” for parents and kids by requiring companies to permit users to eliminate personal information from a child or teen when technologically feasible.
- Establish a “Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens” that limits the collection of personal information of teens.
- Establish a Youth Marketing and Privacy Division at the FTC.
The legislation is endorsed by #HalfTheStory, Academy for Eating Disorders, Accountable Tech, Amanda Birkhead Nutrition Counseling LLC, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Counseling Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Heart Association, American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS), Banu Foundation, Be Real USA, Becca Schmill Foundation, Berkeley Media Studies Group, C. Everett Koop – Geisel School of Medicine, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Online Safety, Centerstone, Children Now, Citizens for Decency, Clinical Social Work Association, Common Sense Media, Compass 31, Consumer Action, Darren White , Defending the Early Years, Design It For Us, Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy, & Action, EDGE Consulting Partners, Enough Is Enough, Fairplay, IGGY Ventures, LookUp.live, Lynn’s Warriors , MACGH, Media Education Foundation, Mental Health America, Mentari , National Association of School Nurses, National Alliance for Eating Disorders, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Association of Social Workers, National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, National Eating Disorders Association, National Federation of Families, National League for Nursing, Network for Public Education, Parents Television and Media Council, Parents Who Fight, Paving the Way Foundation, Peace Educators Allied for a Safe Environment (P.E.A.C.E.), Porn Free Colorado, Postpartum Support International, Prevention Institute, Project HEAL, Project Stand, Protect Young Eyes, Public Good Law Center, Public Health Institute, Realized Potential Inc, Rego Payment Architectures Inc., RI International, Shift SC, Stop Predatory Gambling and Campaign for Gambling-Free Kids, Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, Susan K. Youngsteadt LCSW, PLLC, The Kennedy Forum, The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org), Turning Life On, Tyler Clementi Foundation, U.S. PIRG, Uprising, Wager Score, Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, We Stand Guard LLC, Wealth Management Ministries-Prevention Works Joint Task Force & Coalition, WithAll, worthy2, and YCA Human Trafficking Task Force
“As our nation continues to grapple with a youth mental health crisis, we must address the role of social media and other digital platforms. New data privacy protections for youth are a meaningful step toward creating a digital ecosystem that better supports their mental health—and it’s within Congress’s reach. The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act is a bill that has the potential to make a meaningful difference, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is proud to endorse it. The bill would ban targeted advertising to teens and prevent platforms from using young people’s data to create online experiences that can be harmful to their health and development. We applaud Senators Markey and Cassidy for their bipartisan work on this legislation and look forward to seeing Congress pass this commonsense proposal,” said Sandy Chung, MD, FAAP, President of American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Common Sense Media strongly supports the reintroduction of this bi-partisan bill to strengthen the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and we commend Senators Markey and Cassidy for their work on behalf of kids and families. Strengthening data privacy protections is the first step toward building a safer online world for kids and teens. This new and improved version of COPPA 2.0 expands on previous iterations by covering teens’ data until their 17th birthday and banning targeted ads to all covered minors, making the bill even stronger than before. The federal COPPA is now a 25-year-old law that has long been in need of an update to better protect kids and teens on the internet as it looks today, and that is what COPPA 2.0 will do. We urge Congress to act right away to take up this bill and other legislation to establish guardrails on tech to reduce online harms to kids and teens,” said Jimmy Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.
“The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Senators Markey and Cassidy, will provide urgently needed online safeguards for children and teens. By banning targeted ads to young people under 16, the endless streams of data collected by online companies to profile and track them will be significantly reduced. The ability of digital marketers and platforms to manipulate, discriminate, and exploit children and teens will be curtailed. COPPA 2.0 will also extend the original COPPA law protections for youth from 12 to 16 years of age. The proposed law provides the ability to delete children’s and teen’s data with a click of an ‘eraser button.’ By strengthening the FTC by the creation of a new ‘Youth Marketing and Privacy Division,’ COPPA 2.0 will ensure young peoples’ privacy rights are enforced,” said Katharina Kopp, Deputy Director of Center for Digital Democracy.
“The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act is a critical step towards addressing the youth mental health crisis and creating the internet that young people deserve,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director at Fairplay. “By granting teens privacy protections for the first time and banning targeted ads, the bill will disrupt the toxic business model in which online platforms use any means necessary to capture young people’s attention and monetize their data. We commend Senators Markey and Cassidy for introducing this landmark legislation and urge Congress to act quickly to put children’s needs ahead of commercial interests.”
A group of 64 industry and trade groups signed a letter of support for Cassidy’s COPPA 2.0 legislation.
In 1998, Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which instituted basic privacy protections, including notice and parental consent requirements that protect users under 13 years old. While COPPA took major steps towards safeguarding children’s personal information on the internet, the law is overdue for an update in light of major changes in the online landscape. Parents agree that existing children’s privacy rules should be extended to teenagers, and the need for a comprehensive set of protections to safeguard children and teen’s privacy online has become significantly more urgent as young people’s mental health declines. Kids lack key cognitive capabilities to safely spend time online, yet during the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s use of the internet doubled, and over one in four teens report using social media “almost constantly.” As countries around the world address the dramatic increase in children and teens’ time online by enacting heightened privacy protections for young people, Congress must also act.