Lawmakers Urge FTC To Crack Down On Collection Of Children's Data

The Federal Trade Commission should strengthen rules that restrict companies from collecting children's personal data, four Democratic lawmakers say in a letter to the agency.

“Threats to young people online have reached a crisis point,” Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Representatives Kathy Castor (D-Florida) and Lori Trahan (D-Massachusetts) say in a letter sent Thursday to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

The lawmakers are urging Khan to “continue efforts to implement strong privacy safeguards” to protect children and teens online, including by updating regulations that implement the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

That law prohibits web companies from knowingly collecting “personal information” from children younger than 13, without parental consent; the law also tasks the FTC with issuing regulations, as well as defining the term personal information.

Markey and the others specifically urge Khan to expand the definition of personal information -- a phrase that currently covers names, addresses, phone numbers, photos, geolocation data collected from devices and some pseudonymous information (including data stored on cookies and device identifiers.)

While the lawmakers don't say how they would like to see that definition revised, advocacy groups including the Center for Digital Democracy, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen previously argued to the FTC that the phrase should cover data that's inferred about children.

The advocates also said biometric data -- such as retinal patterns and genetic data -- should be considered “personal information.”

Markey and the others are also asking the FTC to issue new rules regarding the security of children's data, as well as rules to prevent companies from collecting more data than necessary from children.

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