Date: Mar 26, 2019
As expected, 2019 is shaping up to be the year for privacy reforms, including possible amendments to the 20-year old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have introduced legislation that would expand COPPA's scope to offer new protections to minors age 13-15, establish new limitations on collecting personal information on children and minors, and create a new division within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged with overseeing marketing directed at children and minors, among other things.
The COPPA amendments do not create new rights of action (unlike the CCPA), nor do they alter the current preemption provision of COPPA which establishes that COPPA preempts inconsistent state laws.
Significant changes to COPPA would include:
Sen. Markey, the author of COPPA and the current bill to amend it, has been a vocal advocate in Congress for children's privacy. He is also one of the sponsors of the Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act, introduced on February 26, 2019. This legislation would direct the National Institutes of Health to study the effect of technology and media on infants, children, and adolescents with regard to cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development. According to the legislation, this research over the next few years would "investigate the impact of exposure to and use of media such as mobile devices, computers, social media, applications, websites, television, motion pictures, artificial intelligence, video games, and virtual and augmented reality."
Whether it makes sense to modify COPPA now, or await further research, may be an open question. For companies that have already implemented COPPA compliance policies, practicing privacy and security by design are already part of their business operations, but understanding the potential impacts on operations and data management procedures will be critical to both weigh in on the proposed legislation and to assess measures to comply if it goes forward.