President Joe Biden plans on Tuesday to call for new privacy laws, including one that would prohibit companies from serving behaviorally targeted ads to children.
"Children are ... subject to the platforms’ intensive and excessive data collection vacuum, which they use to deliver sensational and harmful content and troves of paid advertising to our kids," the White House stated in a fact sheet outlining Biden's State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday evening. "The President is calling on Congress to ban excessive data collection on and targeted advertising online for children and young people."
Currently, the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires companies to obtain parental approval before knowingly collecting information from children under 13, including ad identifiers and other pseudonymous data that can be used to target ads based on users' activity across websites and apps.
Earlier this week, Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) reiterated his call to broaden that law in several ways, including by banning companies from serving ads to children based on their activity across websites and apps.
Biden also plans to address online companies' use of algorithms, particularly ones that potentially perpetuate stereotypes.
“When a girl searches for jobs online, platforms will too often push her away from fields like engineering that historically have excluded women,” the fact sheet states. “Platforms shape how our kids understand what is possible and access opportunities....We must ensure that platforms and other algorithmically-enhanced systems do not discriminatorily target our kids.”
Two years ago, researchers at Northeastern University, the University of Southern California, and the advocacy group Upturn reported that algorithms in Facebook's ad-delivery system appeared to take stereotypes about race and gender into account when serving ads.
Biden also will call for research into how social media affects young people, and earmark at least $5 million in the 2023 budget toward research on “social media’s harms,” and potential interventions.
The president also plans to say that online services providers should be required to “prioritize prioritize and ensure the health, safety and well-being of children and young people above profit and revenue in the design of their products and services.”
News of Biden's expected remarks was met with approval by advocacy groups, including Fairplay (formerly Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood) and the Center for Digital Democracy.
“Banning surveillance advertising to young people is at the top of the list of what youth advocates like myself have been calling for,” Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, said Tuesday afternoon.
He added that his group has also called for a design code that would require companies to consider children's best interests when designing online services.