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United States Privacy Digest | Heard around DC — FTC on edtech, federal legislation, biometrics and more Related reading: Canadian Parliament's Bill C-27 hearing delves deeper into AIDA



“Kids have a right to study in privacy. And they have that right whether their parents are office workers or maintenance workers.” Alvaro Bedoya focused on privacy equities in his first public remarks as the Federal Trade Commission’s newest commissioner at the agency’s open meeting May 19. Each commissioner offered thoughtful remarks as they approved the FTC’s publication of a policy statement previewing renewed Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act compliance scrutiny of education technology services (or as the news release put it, “companies that illegally surveil children learning online”). Though the policy statement does not change the FTC’s prior interpretation of COPPA, it does enshrine staff guidance into an official warning to edtech vendors. It also serves as yet another signal of this FTC’s privacy priorities, including a focus on those tech services with widespread impact and an emphasis on enforcing principles of data minimization and purpose-based use limitations. IAPP will have further analysis of the edtech statement in The Privacy Advisor. Here's what else happened since the last roundup:

  • Senate Commerce Committee leaders met privately to talk privacy. Communications Daily reported on the meeting, relying on staff sources. The trade press publication also quoted U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on the “renewed focus” to “get serious” on privacy legislation and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., with a call to finish the work: “We need to legislate. We need to do our jobs. We may be closer than you think. There are meaningful negotiations.” I discussed what the emerging consensus on the Hill might look like on a LinkedIn Live this week.
  • The Fifth Circuit ruled that the SEC’s administrative law judges are unconstitutional. In a decision almost certain to be appealed, a federal court ruled that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s use of ALJs to resolve enforcement actions violates the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. Similar reasoning could have wide-ranging impacts for any federal agency that relies on ALJs, including the FTC.
  • “Digital infrastructure has become the infrastructure of authoritarianism.” So argues sociologist Zeynep Tufekci in her The New York Times column this week, linking pervasive collection and unchecked data compilation with the potential for widespread surveillance.
  • Under scrutiny:
    • is the subject of a letter from four U.S. Senators to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation into its statements about its facial recognition systems after it reversed course on its prior claims that it did not use one-to-many matching in its systems.
    • Dominant advertising technology platforms are in the crosshairs of a new bill introduced this week that would prohibit firms exceeding a revenue threshold from doing business on both sides of the adtech market.
    • Employee monitoring software is the subject of an Economist article analyzing the explosion of office surveillance fueled by the pandemic. It suggests large disparities in vendor’s approaches to limiting the privacy impacts of such software.

Upcoming happenings:

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