Democrats urge online platforms to extend UK child protections to US

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Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) are pushing digital platforms to apply the same protections for teens and young children in the U.S. as in the United Kingdom, while Congress lags on updating its rules.

The Democratic lawmakers sent letters to the executives of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter on Wednesday asking them to extend any privacy protections they provide under the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) to American users. 

“Today, children and teens encounter constant threats to their privacy online,” the letters shared with The Hill read.

“It is imperative that Congress acts with urgency to enact a strong privacy law for children and teens in the 21st century,” they continue. “As we work towards that goal, we urge you to extend to American children and teens any privacy enhancements that you implement to comply with the AADC.”

The AADC requires all commercial online services that are likely to be used by minors — such as a social media platform or search engine — to meet a set of 15 standards that include data minimization, defaulting against collecting geolocation data and barring the use of “nudge” techniques to encourage data sharing.

Companies are being asked to conform with the code in the U.K. starting Sept. 2, a year after it came into force.

Markey and Castor are both leading efforts to update the United States’s rule governing children’s privacy on the internet, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). 

Those pushing to revamp the 1998 law say it is insufficient to protect children’s data on the modern internet and needs to cover teens as well. 

Markey, along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), introduced legislation last month that would update COPPA with protections similar to those in the AADC. 

The Children and Teen’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 2021 would prohibit internet companies from collecting personal information from anyone ages 13 to 15 without the user’s consent and establish a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the Federal Trade Commission that would be responsible for addressing the privacy of children and marketing directed at them.  

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation but has not yet received a vote. Castor introduced a similar bill, the PRIVCY Act, in the House last year but has yet to reintroduce it this Congress.

The Democratic lawmakers are asking the online platforms to commit to extending the same protections they give to children in the U.K. to ones in the U.S. within three weeks.

Spokespeople for Twitter and TikTok confirmed receipt of the letter and told The Hill they intend to respond. The Hill has reached out to the other companies for comment.

Updated: 5:44 p.m.

Tags Bill Cassidy Ed Markey Kathy Castor Lori Trahan

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