FTC Urged To Police Teen Privacy On Instagram, YouTube, Other Tech Platforms

Three Democrats are pressing the Federal Trade Commission to monitor whether Google, Facebook and other tech companies are honoring their recent commitments to tighten privacy rules for users under 18.

“We urge you to use your authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to ensure that technology companies comply with these commitments to users and hold them accountable if they fail to do so,” Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Representatives Kathy Castor (D-Florida) and Lori Trahan (D-Massachusetts) said Friday in a letter to the agency.

The lawmakers specifically point to Facebook's recent decision to place Instagram users between the ages of 13 and 16 into private accounts by default, and to Google's promise to block ad targeting based on age, gender or interests of users under 18, among other statements.

Markey and the others write that the FTC is obligated “to ensure that powerful technology platforms comply with their public statements and policies on children’s and teen’s privacy.”

“The need to protect young people from privacy threats online is more urgent than ever,” they write, adding that children's and teens' daily screen time increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, Markey and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) introduced a bill that would prohibit websites and apps from collecting personal information -- including IP addresses, device identifiers and other data that can be connected to specific devices -- from teens between the ages of 13 and 15, without first obtaining their explicit consent.

The federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act currently prohibits companies from collecting personal data -- including device identifiers and other data that can be used for ad targeting -- from children under 13, without parental consent.

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