A broad coalition of consumer groups is asking on the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of children-oriented digital media companies that target children..
The groups include powerful advocacy groups like the Digital Democracy Center and the Commercial-Free Childhood Campaign.
This year, after an FTC investigation into possible violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Act, YouTube paid a $170 million settlement.
According to a letter obtained by CNBC, a broad coalition of consumer groups is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a sweeping review of digital media outlets targeting children.
The group includes powerful advocacy organizations like the Digital Democracy Center and the Commercial-Free Childhood Coalition that pressured the FTC to investigate Google’s YouTube and ultimately led the company to pay a record $170 million settlement this fall.
Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has signed on to the initiative as the medical community is becoming increasingly concerned about the digital environment of children.
Dr. Kyle Yasuda, president of AAP, said that in a statement. “Since digital technology evolves rapidly, so must our understanding of how data companies are engaging with children’s information online,” he added, “As we pursue the promise of digital media for children’s development, we must design robust protections to keep them safe based on an up-to-date understanding of the digital spaces they navigate.”
The groups want the FTC to use its subpoena power to force digital media firms to share information on how they advertise to children, track them online, and collect and store their information.
Although the letter, dated Thursday, does not name specific companies, Josh Golin, CCFC’s executive director, said that any review would likely encompass media and tech giants such as Disney and Google as well as apps like TikTok or Amazon’s streaming service Twitch.
His group is planning to send a follow-up letter to the FTC proposing the application of individual companies and will meet with the regulator next week to discuss their concerns.
In a statement, Golin stated that. “We need the full power of the law to protect them from predatory data collection, but we can’t protect children from Big Tech business models if we don’t know how those models truly work,”
The FTC is in the midst of reviewing its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act laws, the federal law requiring companies to obtain parental consent before collecting data from children under the age of 13.
It comes as tech giants in Washington, D.C., and around the world are under heightened scrutiny over their handling of personal information. Two of the largest platforms are already tightening their own rules for child identification and advertising.
YouTube will ban personalized ads in response to its agreement with the FTC and disable other features on any content that targets children starting next year.
Facebook’s Instagram announced on Wednesday that new users will have to provide a date of birth to help prove that they are at least 13.
Still, when the FTC will update its regulations remains unclear. The company has received over 160,000 comments so far, including thousands from content creators who are worried that changes to the rules could wind up stopping them from making videos that are child friendly.
The consumer coalition argues in its letter that before moving forward, the FTC needs more data from the tech firms themselves.
The letter states that: “The FTC cannot base substantive policy decisions on the current dearth of details about how the information ecosystem functions,” continuing.. “Rather, the FTC must conduct and complete a series of long-overdue studies to shed light on these opaque industries before it adopts any privacy-related rulemaking or major policy change.”


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