New Senate and House Support for Children’s Online Privacy Legislation

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2024 –Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass. and Bill Cassidy, R-La., on Wednesday announced new cosponsors and organizational support for their bipartisan and bicameral Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0).

The new support comes at a time of heightened momentum behind privacy legislation. Last week, the chairs of the House and Senate Commerce committees unveiled a draft of federal data privacy legislation. A companion House measure is the subject of a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Wednesday.

Legislators Release Draft Data Privacy Law

The measure would hand enforcement to the FTC, but would leave in place data breach rules the FCC adopted in December.

The Markey-Cassidy COPPA 2.0 cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in July, along with a separate measure, the Kids Online Safety Act. KOSA was introduced in 2022 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

COPPA 2.0 would make it illegal for websites to collect data on children under the age of 16, outlaw marketing specifically aimed at kids, and allow parents to erase their kids’ information on the websites. 

KOSA requires social media sites to put in place safeguards protecting users under the age of 17 from content that promotes harmful behaviors, such as suicide and eating disorders.

Senate Commerce Committee Passes Two Bills To Protect Children Online

The bills failed to make headway in a previous Congress.

Both measures also cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in 2022, but failed to advance further before the conclusion of the 117th Congress at the end of 2022. 

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Ranking Member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also joined as cosponsors of COPPA 2.0 in February, with the following senators joining Wednesday as new cosponsors of Markey-Cassidy measure: Republican Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Democrats Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Laphonza Butler of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Peter Welch of Vermont and Ron Wyden of Oregon, plus Angus King, I-Maine.

“With COPPA 2.0 introduced in the House and new cosponsors in the Senate, momentum is quickly building for our critical legislation to protect children and teens’ online privacy,” Markey and Cassidy said in statement. “We must put an end to the pervasive online tracking and targeting of our young people.” 

“Big Tech companies treat children like ATMs, monetizing their every move online,” said Blumenthal, who with Klobachar is also joining on as a co-sponsor of Markey’s alter alternative legislation.

“I am deeply concerned by the way our children are tracked online,” said Butler. “If we cannot rely on Big Tech companies to make good on their commitment to prioritize children’s privacy over profits, we need to legislate them into action and make crystal clear the urgent need for reform.” 

“All individuals, including children, are the rightful owners of their personal information. They should be granted a certain set of privacy rights and the ability to protect those rights,” said Crapo. 

“As the online environment evolves, it’s critical that we update how we protect our children from consuming online content that could be detrimental to their development and safety,” said King. COPPA 2.0 “will ensure that our children are guarded from pervasive tracking and targeting, often used by companies or bad actors looking to manipulate our young family members.” 

“Despite the dangers our kids are exposed to online, it’s been more than 25 years since Congress passed any legislation regulating the internet,” said Klobuchar. Speaking of COPPA 2.0, she said, “This critical legislation will bring much-needed updates to our data privacy laws, empowering parents and young people to control how their data is collected and used.” 

New organizational support

New organizations supporting COPPA 2.0 include the AASA, The School Superintendents Association, American Federation of Teachers, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of School Business Officials International, Consortium for School Networking, Council of the Great City Schools, National Association for Pupil Transportation, National Education Association, National Rural Education Association, National School Boards Association, Public Interest Privacy Center, and Public Knowledge. 

Last week, Representative Kathy Castor , D-Florida, Tim Walberg , R-Michigan introduced the House companion to COPPA 2.0.