WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee hearing on An Examination of Children's Privacy: New Technologies and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thank you Senator Pryor for your outstanding work as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. According to a recent study, children ages 2 through 11 make up 9.5 percent of online users. That’s nearly 16 million children, and the number is rapidly growing.
A decade ago, going online meant accessing the Internet on a computer in your home. Today, it also includes iPhones, portable games, and interactive TVs. As powerful and exciting as these new developments are, a changing world brings new risks. For instance, a recent survey found that the top five Internet searches by children under 13 were for the terms: “YouTube,” “Google,” “Facebook,” and two somewhat less decent terms that no parent would want their young child searching for on the web. Accessing these websites, whether they are well-known and popular or outright illegal, have enormous privacy implications that I fear parents are unaware of, and I know children do not understand.
Many companies are collecting personal information and monetizing it. This commercial practice has a particular impact on our children. We have a responsibility to understand this rapidly changing digital landscape and to give parents the tools they need to protect their children’s privacy.
In 1988, we passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or “COPPA”, requiring websites to get parents’ consent before collecting or using any personal information from children. Since then, the way children use the Internet has changed dramatically. Some online technologies that are nearly ubiquitous today did not even exist a few years ago. So in January, the FTC began an important effort to review its rules. But with such rapid change, I firmly believe Congress also must take a hard look at whether COPPA should be updated to cover new kinds of information and new businesses. I look forward to working with Senator Pryor in this examination.
I very much want to thank Microsoft and Facebook for testifying. I have to say that I am disappointed Apple and Google have declined to participate today. These two companies are at the forefront of technological developments in the online world. With this introductory hearing, we are starting an important public discussion with direct implications on children’s privacy. Apple and Google’s refusal to take part does not speak well of their commitment to working with Congress on this issue going forward.
I want to close by noting that children’s privacy is strongly connected to children’s safety, and I believe in my core that all children deserve special protections. Always. Period. It’s important not to conflate the two issues, but privacy and safety most certainly overlap. To parents, nothing is more important than protecting our children. Nothing. I am enormously alarmed by the rise in criminal behavior targeting children online, from “cyber-bullying” to adult predators. These frightening trends are directly connected to the fact that our children’s sensitive, personal information is being increasingly exposed to the public.
I look forward to continuing this important discussion and working together – Congress, the FTC, and online stakeholders – to make sure nothing comes before the safety and security of our children.
Senator Mark PryorChairmanU.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
WASHINGTON, D.C. - This morning we’ll examine children’s privacy and how well the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – or “COPPA” – is working.
The Consumer Protection Subcommittee, which I chair, has jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces this statute. The FTC is currently engaged in reexamining the implementation and effectiveness of COPPA.
Protecting our children’s online privacy and safety is a critical issue whose importance cannot be overstated. Online abuses such as harassment, threats, and cyber bullying should never be tolerated.
Today’s discussion could not come at a more pivotal time as technological developments and innovations, while greatly beneficial in many respects, contribute to the complexity of today’s online space.
I’m concerned about kids’ online safety for a number of reasons.
First, we know that while some companies are making great strides to protect young people from predators and online dangers, the disclosure of personal information by young people is prevalent. Researchers are still unpacking the implications of this disclosure.
Second, recent reports have suggested that location-based advertising is tied to social networking. It also appears that certain technologies, such as GPS tracking capabilities, could track children without their knowledge. As more kids have access to phones and as tracking devices and mobile technologies increase in sophistication, greater understanding of how children could be impacted is essential.
Third, we know that our young children are using the Internet now more than ever before. And we know they represent a large portion of total online activity. According to one report, in the last five years, we have seen the time spent online by kids ages 2 through 11 increase by 63 percent. Children aged 2 through 11 represent almost 10 percent of the active online space.
I’m interested in all witnesses’ thoughts regarding the appropriateness of the statute’s age limit, what constitutes children’s “personal information,” how parental consent is best achieved; and how operators maintain the confidentiality and security of the information they do collect – when authorized – about children.
I know the FTC is considering both how to better prevent the unauthorized collection or use of children’s information and how to educate parents and teachers about the importance of encouraging children to protect themselves online. I look forward to following their progress.
I would like to thank all of our witnesses for agreeing to testify today. Not all members of the business community were willing to present their views; and therefore, your perspective is that much more appreciated and valued.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Jessica RichDeputy Director, Bureau of Consumer ProtectionFederal Trade Commission
Mr. Tim SparapaniDirector of Public Policy
Mr. Mike HintzeAssociate General CounselMicrosoft Corporation
Ms. Kathryn Montgomery Ph.D.Professor, School of CommunicationAmerican University
Mr. Marc RotenbergExecutive DirectorElectronic Privacy Information Center
Mr. Berin SzokaSenior Fellow & Director of the Center for Internet FreedomThe Progress & Freedom Foundation