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Attorney General Josh Stein Fights for Stronger Youth Online Privacy and Safety Protections

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Nazneen Ahmed (919) 716-0060

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein and a bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to update and strengthen the rules technology companies must follow under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

“Our laws need to catch up to our technology,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I’m urging the FTC to strengthen online privacy protections for kids so we can keep them, and their personal information, safe.”

The rules governing online privacy protections for children up to age 13 have not been updated in more than a decade. At the same time, the digital world has evolved rapidly — with smartphones, social networks, and connected devices becoming an even greater part of our lives.

Congress enacted COPPA in 1998 to give parents more control over information collected online from their children. Under the law, the FTC establishes regulations for operators of websites or online services about how they collect, use, and share personal information about children under 13 years of age.

The coalition of attorneys general wants the FTC to strengthen the amendments it’s proposing to COPPA. They are urging the FTC to expand the definition of “personal information” to include biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, retina and iris patterns, and a DNA sequence, data derived from voice data, gait data, and facial data, and avatars generated from a child’s image and likeness.

The attorneys general also ask the FTC to adopt a comprehensive framework for determining whether services qualify for a proposed parental consent exception, and to prohibit operators from abusing the multiple-contact exception in COPPA with engagement-maximizing push notifications.

Late last year, Attorney General Stein sued Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for violations of state consumer protection laws and COPPA. The complaint alleges Meta knowingly designed and deployed harmful features on Instagram and its other social media platforms that purposefully addict children and teens. All the while, Meta falsely assured the public that these features are safe and suitable for young users. The case is ongoing.

Attorney General Josh Stein is joined in sending this letter by the Attorneys General of Oregon, Illinois, Mississippi and Tennessee, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the letters is available here.