A bipartisan group of senators is pushing for the passage of stricter protections for children’s private data during the lame-duck session of Congress.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are seeking to attach two children’s data regulatory bills to larger legislation expected to advance before the current Congress ends, Senate aides told the Washington Examiner.
The bills in question are the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, which implement new guidelines far the handling of minors’ data by Big Tech companies such as Amazon and Google.
The first bill would require platforms to implement features that turn on the highest privacy settings for children by default. The second would ban online marketing content aimed at minors without their consent.
Privacy advocates argue that the bills offer Congress too much power over users and are poor substitutes for a national privacy framework.
“If [the Kids Online Safety Act] passes, instead of allowing parents to make the decision about what young people will see online, Congress will do it for them,” wrote Electronic Frontier Foundation counsel Aaron Mackey in a blog post.
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is reportedly prioritizing passage of the bills.
“Sen. Cantwell is meeting with families this week and supports any effort to get children’s online privacy passed during the lame duck,” a representative for the committee told Axios.
It’s uncertain what bill they would be attached to or if they would conflict with other interests in the Senate at this time, but they could be attached to the year-end defense or spending bill if necessary.
The Senate is running low on time to pass tech-related legislation. While Democrats have advocated passing antitrust legislation this term, the window to do so is shrinking. The best bet is to add measures to larger bills that have to be passed before the end of the year.
Lawmakers are under pressure to pass additional privacy provisions to protect adults and children. Montana voters approved a ballot measure last week that required law enforcement to acquire a warrant before accessing a user’s private data.