Watchdogs Want FTC To Demand Detailed Info About Children's Data

Advocacy groups are pressing the Federal Trade Commission to gather more information about how media and tech companies, including companies involved in distance learning, collect data about children.

“No federal entity has conducted a detailed and compulsory study of industry practice regarding contemporary children’s data collection practices across the digital landscape or ed tech,” the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood argue in a letter expected to be sent Thursday to the FTC.

The organizations say the agency should use its subpoena power to demand detailed information about data practices from dozens of tech companies, including Google, Zoom, Disney, Comcast, AT&T and Viacom, as well as ed-tech companies like Edmodo and Prodigy.

The groups are proposing a host of detailed questions, including ones related to digital advertising. Among others, the watchdogs request that the FTC inquire about “tracking, cross-device identification, ad attribution, 'persona'-based techniques, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and 'playable' ads.”



The groups' request comes the same week as Sens. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) requested that the FTC and Education Department issue new privacy guidance for companies that are facilitating the shift to distance learning prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Student privacy must not fall by the wayside as the current pandemic moves learning from the classroom to online offerings at home,” the lawmakers write.

They add that many ed-tech products “collect large amounts of data about students and do not employ adequate privacy or security measures.”

The lawmakers say they would like ed-tech companies to explain their privacy policies, and avoid weakening privacy safeguards for at-home users.

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