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Markey, Castor urge FTC to investigate Google Play Store

Markey, Castor urge FTC to investigate Google Play Store
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyCivilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Markey, Castor urge FTC to investigate Google Play Store Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' MORE (D-Fla.) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate if Google’s app store is misleadingly marketing children’s apps as compliant with a law aimed at protecting children’s privacy. 

The Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to the FTC calling for the commission to launch an investigation into the Silicon Valley giant’s app store, citing recent studies that suggest apps that infringe on children's privacy, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), are “rampant on the Google Play Store.” 

“The FTC must use its full authority to protect the interests of children, many of whom are increasingly online during the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, we urge you to investigate whether the Google Play Store has engaged in unfair and deceptive practices that mislead parents and harm kids,” the Democrats wrote. 

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The letter follows a similar push from two advocacy groups, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), for the FTC to look into the alleged COPPA violations. 

The groups filed a complaint with the FTC at the end of March over the alleged violations and urged the commission to investigate Google’s practices. 

Spokespeople for Google and the FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Last month in response to the CCFC and CDD filing, a Google spokesperson defended the company’s handling of apps aimed at children.

“Google Play is committed to providing a positive and safe environment for children and families,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Markey and Castor noted that experts and lawmakers called on the FTC to investigate the Google Play store for potential violations of consumer protection and privacy law in 2018. The FTC’s decision not to investigate “may have resulted in unnecessary harm to children and families,” they wrote. 

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“During a period in which children’s technology use has skyrocketed, our renewed call for the FTC to investigate the Google Play Store is even more urgent,” the Democrats wrote. 

Markey and Castor have also been pushing for increased regulation on children’s data protection. 

The Democrats plan to reintroduce the KIDS Act, which adds more protection around digital advertising for children, in both chambers this session.