Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill To Restrict Data Collection From Teens

Two senators have reintroduced a bill that would prohibit websites and apps from collecting a broad range of data -- including device identifiers, biometric information and geolocation -- from users between the ages of 13 and 15, without their express consent.

The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), also would prohibit online companies from using behavioral-advertising techniques -- such as serving ads based on unique identifiers -- on users that the companies have reason to believe are under 13.

The two lawmakers introduced a similar bill in 2021.

Currently, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits websites and apps from knowingly collecting personal data -- including data stored on cookies, device identifiers and other pseudonymous information used for ad targeting -- from children under 13, without parental consent.

The new proposal would also prohibit companies from collecting data when they “should reasonably know” that their sites or apps are used by children.

“Today’s online guardrails were written before the invention of the iPhone,” Markey stated last week. “The law has to evolve to meet the reality of today’s digital landscape.”

The bill is backed by dozens of advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, and the National Eating Disorders Association.

But the technology think tank TechFreedom says the bill raises constitutional concerns, given that older teens and adults use many of the same websites and apps.

The organization told Congress last year that the current children's privacy law doesn't threaten adults' use of the internet, because the existing law only applies to data collected from children younger than 13 -- meaning it “only impacts a small segment of online services.”

But extending that law to 13- to 15-year-olds “is simply unworkable,” the group says, noting that teens “have overlapping interest with, and use many of the same websites and online services as, adults.”

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