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United States Privacy Digest | Notes from the IAPP, Feb. 18, 2022 Related reading: Notes from the IAPP, Feb. 11, 2022

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Greetings from Portsmouth, New Hampshire!

Over the last few months, children's privacy has been an increasingly hot topic. There have been debates and hearings surrounding children's privacy, particularly regarding social media sites. These have spurred the proposals of several bipartisan privacy laws at the state and federal level and amendments to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. 

Just this week, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced the Kids Online Safety Act, which is geared toward social media platforms and offers enhanced online protections for kids 16 and younger. 

Shortly after the federal bill was proposed, California lawmakers introduced the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act. This bill mirrors the U.K. Age appropriate design code, which went into effect Sept. 2, 2021. 

Bill co-author and state Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Calif., said it is a "first-in-the-nation bill" and, if it passes, "could have ripple effects throughout the country." 

In addition to providing online data protection for children, the proposed bill would require technology platforms to limit the amount of children's privacy data collected for children under 18. Companies would not be able to "collect any precise geolocation information by default." 

It also restricts profiling children for targeted advertising and prevents the use of "dark patterns or other techniques to lead or encourage consumers to provide personal information beyond what is necessary."

The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office offered support for the bill. "Our Children's code is already having an impact and making the internet a safer place for children. We've worked closely to support the development of the California bill and are pleased to see @BuffyWicks & @Cunning_Jordan take steps to improve the digital world for U.S. children."

Common Sense Media Founder & CEO Jim Steyer also tweeted support for both bills, writing, "Great week for kids online safety. Bipartisan bills in Congress & California call for comprehensive reform of how #BigTech designs products. It's time product safety rules caught up with tech."

The news doesn't end here, though, as three Democratic lawmakers urged the FTC to use its authority under COPPA and the FTC Act to "monitor" Big Tech's use of virtual reality to protect children's privacy. In a letter to the agency, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., and Lori Trahan, D-Mass., expressed concern about unsafe content in the metaverse. They wrote, "VR companies' plans to present commercial advertisements in the metaverse could lead to harmful marketing practices that may be inherently manipulative of children."

While federal privacy laws have been introduced over the last couple of years to protect children's privacy, there is something about this week's activities that feels different. As Common Sense Media Senior Counsel, Global Policy Ariel Fox Johnson, CIPP/US, told IAPP Staff Writer Jennifer Bryant in a recent article, this is a "moment like no other in the last 10 to 20 years."

The first committee hearing for the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act is tentatively slated for March 19. We will keep you updated.

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