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Nessel Urges FTC to Strengthen Online Protections for Children

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and a bipartisan group of 24 other Attorneys General today urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to strengthen its rules prohibiting websites, mobile applications, and other digital marketing companies from collecting and using the personal information of children under the age of 13.  

“My colleagues and I have come together to provide meaningful suggestions to strengthen the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rule which would benefit Michigan’s children through enhanced privacy measures,” said Nessel. “To ensure that we’re keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of technology, fortifying the walls between young children and those looking to prey on them is crucial.”

While numerous websites and mobile applications collect personal information from users – including geolocation information, browser histories, search histories, and voice recordings – since 1996, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) has prohibited collecting this data from children under 13.

In their letter, the Attorneys General ask the FTC to expand its definition of personal information to include items such as faceprints used to unlock cellphones, health data from internet-connected smart watches, and kids’ genetic information.

The Attorneys General also recommend that the FTC crack down on companies who embed code in children’s mobile applications and collect data to target children with behavioral advertising; and to examine how the rules apply to school-issued laptops that are “free” so long as companies get to collect information from the students using them.

Furthermore, the Attorneys General assert that the FTC should not create exceptions to the rule such as allowing platforms that host both child-directed and general audience content to work around COPPA’s requirements.

Nessel joins the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington in submitting this letter.

A copy of the letter is available here.