On Tuesday, our Institute Faculty Director Angela Campbell testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing on “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World.”
Professor Campbell spoke in support of updating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), passing new legislation relevant to current online practices, passing the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2019, and fully utilizing the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) existing authority to enforce COPPA.
As a professor and clinical director at Georgetown Law, Professor Campbell has spent thirty years working to improve children’s media environment, representing nonprofit organizations such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy. The hearing focused on harms affecting children online, and the role of the federal government in addressing such concerns.
Highlighting the roots of risks plaguing children online, Professor Campbell emphasized two issues:
“First, the business models of the dominant tech companies [are] designed, not to protect children or nurture children, but to attract large numbers of users, including children, and keep them online as long as possible. . .
Second, the government has failed to adopt sufficient safeguards for children and has not effectively enforced the safeguards that do exist . . . COPPA has not kept up with [new technological developments]."
Professor Campbell noted that, "Passing the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2019, which was introduced by Senators Markey and Hawley, would be a good first step” to updating online protections. She also called for better enforcement of existing laws.
“Even in the absence of new legislation, the FTC can and should act to better protect children's privacy. The FTC should use its authority under Section 5 to hold platforms responsible when they characterize apps or other content as appropriate for children when they are not and, conversely, when [apps] say their services are not appropriate for children and yet they know there are a lot of children using them anyhow."
Additionally, Congress should consider emerging issues around “facial recognition, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and other new technologies.”
Under Professor Campbell’s guidance, Georgetown’s IPR Tech and Communications Clinic has filed complaints with the FTC flagging online practices that violate COPPA. In December, the clinic filed a complaint with the FTC requesting an investigation into whether Google's marketing of apps directed to children in the Google Play Store violates the FTC Act’s prohibition on deceptive and unfair practices.