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Senators Propose Bill to Stop Big Tech Companies’ ‘Spying on Children’

The Associated Press
(Gary Cosby Jr./The Decatur Daily via AP
CHARLIE NASH

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) have proposed a bill which would ban targeted advertising by Big Tech to young children. The goal is an “eraser button” to remove data about children from social media platforms and other Big Tech sites.

According to the Verge, Hawley and Markey want to amend the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) “in order to extend privacy protections to children up to age 15.”

“COPPA already prohibits companies like Facebook and Google from collecting personal data and location information from anyone under the age of 13 without explicit parental consent, but the senators’ new bill amending the law would extend protections to children up to age 15,” the Verge explained, adding, “However, if approved, platforms would only be able to collect the data of children aged 13 to 15 with their own, personal consent and not that of their parents.”

“If approved, it would create what the senators called a ‘Eraser Button’ that would remove all of a child’s data from the related service,” reported the Verge. “If a parent or child decides to delete all of their data, no platform would be able to discontinue service to that user.”

In a video, Hawley declared, “Today I’ve introduced major legislation to protect our kids online, and to stop the Big Tech companies from spying on our children. This legislation says that the Big Tech companies can’t collect information on our kids, can’t track our kids, can’t target ads at our kids, and can’t build profiles on them without explicit consent.”

“It applies to kids up to the age of fifteen, and there’s something else too. It gives kids and parents the right to delete all of the information and data that these tech companies have collected on children. This is a major first step, I can tell you, as the father of two little boys, I worry a lot about what my kids see online, and I worry about what these tech companies are collecting from the children, and the profile that they’re building on my kids,” Hawley continued. “Well, this legislation will give me, and every other parent the right to say no. It’s a first step, there’s a lot more to do. Watch this space. But I’m proud of this legislation’s strong bipartisan support.”

The bill can be read in full online.

Big Tech companies have started to increasingly target young children with products and services tailored to young users.

Last year, Amazon unveiled a version of its Echo home assistant for children called the Echo Dot Kids Edition, while in the same year, Facebook launched Facebook Messenger Kids, which has been criticized for being “harmful to children and teens.”

In February, the Mercury News called out Facebook for “preying on teens.”

Google has also been accused of preying on young users, with a 2015 complaint from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) accusing the company of collecting personal info from children, and more recently, consumer advocacy groups requesting a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into Google over alleged child profile-building through Google Play.

Google also has a version of YouTube for children, which has been criticized.

According to a Pew Research survey, 81 percent of parents allow their children aged 11 and under to watch YouTube videos despite 61 percent of parents also claiming to have encountered content “unsuitable for children” on the platform.

YouTube recently disabled comments on videos featuring children in an effort to curb child predators on the platform.

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter, or like his page at Facebook.

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