Biden Calls For Children's Privacy Protections, Criticizes Social Platforms

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for Congress to outlaw the use of behavioral-targeting techniques to advertise to children.

“It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children,” he said near the end of his hour-long State of the Union address. 

Much of Biden's hour-long speech focused on issues other than the technology industry -- ranging from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the economy to the COVID-19 virus to the opioid epidemic.

But he also addressed technology issues, with a focus on how tech companies' policies affect young users. In addition to calling for a ban on tracking children for ad-targeting purposes, Biden also criticized social media platforms over well-publicized accusations that they harm young users' emotional well-being.

“As Frances Haugen, who is here with us tonight, has shown, we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit,” Biden said to loud applause.

Haugen, a former Facebook executive, recently accused the company of putting profits above the well-being of the company's teen users. She was in the audience as a guest of First Lady Jill Biden.

Earlier Tuesday, after the White House released a fact sheet outlining the speech, the online ad industry pushed back against the call to outlaw behavioral targeting to children.

Interactive Advertising Bureau Lartease Tiffith, executive vice president of public policy, stated that the FTC and Congress should “modernize” the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, “rather than waste time and money on misguided efforts to ban the reasonable use of data for advertising purposes.”

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires online companies to obtain parental approval before knowingly collecting “personal 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.

Advocacy organizations, including Fairplay (formerly Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood) and the Center for Digital Democracy expressed approval of Biden's remarks earlier Tuesday.

“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.

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