FPF Submits Comments with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on Kids Online Health and Safety
On November 15, the Future of Privacy Forum filed comments with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in response to their request for comment on Kids Online Health and Safety as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety.
Young people increasingly engage with their peers online and lawmakers continue to introduce legislation to expand protections for the privacy and safety of minors beyond the existing COPPA framework. However, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to developing policies for minors online presents challenges, as protections that are appropriate for very young children may not be suitable for older teenagers with greater agency and autonomy. While addressing online experiences for minors is a multi-faceted issue, as evidenced by the interagency task force, FPF has identified four of the most impactful areas for privacy that the Task Force should consider as they develop voluntary guidance, policy recommendations, and a toolkit on safety-, health-, and privacy-by-design for industry to apply in developing digital goods and services.
1. Children and teens have varying privacy needs across developmental stages, and overgeneralized restrictions may exacerbate health risks and undermine the developmental benefits of social online experiences. In particular, limitations on access to content and connecting with peers may have negative consequences on the ability of adolescents to explore and develop independence and identity.
2. While many stakeholders agree on high-level policy goals, such as extending heightened protections to both children and teens or minimizing unnecessary data collection, there is little consensus on how best to implement broadly agreed-upon policy goals. In some areas, such as age assurance, there is significant disagreement on how best to grapple with conflicting equities on privacy and safety.
3. Companies building new features to protect the privacy and safety of minors online currently take into account the varying developmental stages of minors and the interaction between minors’ autonomy and parental involvement. These two considerations inform how companies balance privacy and safety before introducing new features and reviewing existing tools as research and societal norms evolve.
4. FPF recommends additional research investigating minors using online services for educational purposes versus recreation, shifts in privacy risks at different ages and stages of development, and the relationship between privacy and safety in applying heightened protections to teens. This research is necessary to identify appropriate safeguards for minors online in both policy and practice.