Senator Hawley Sends Bipartisan Warning to FTC Not to Weaken Children’s Online Privacy Rules

Friday, October 04, 2019

Today Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging it not to take any steps to weaken existing rules under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The Senators sent their letter following the Commission’s announcement that it will begin an ahead-of-schedule review of the COPPA Rule, as well as its request for public comment on potential updates to current children’s privacy protections.

In their letter, the Senators expressed concern that many of the questions presented in the request for public comments suggest an intention to add exceptions and other rule changes to COPPA that would weaken children’s privacy online. In light of the FTC’s recently announced settlement with YouTube over widespread COPPA violations on the video streaming platform, the Senators express skepticism that the Commission fully appreciates the “threat some tech companies pose to children” and caution the FTC to only pursue changes to existing regulations that “prioritize children’s privacy and well-being.”

“But the FTC’s failure now and in recent years to fully enforce COPPA compliance has us concerned that an update at this time could diminish children and parents’ control of their data or otherwise weaken existing privacy protections. Now is not the time to pull back,” write the Senators in the letter to all five FTC Commissioners. “As children’s use of technology continues to increase, so too does the appetite by tech giants for children’s personal information. Your agency’s obligation is to put consumers’ interests first and enforce the law.”

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found here.