Third-party companies access and store children’s personal data through ads, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Children’s data protection is one of FTC’s major concerns, as Maureen Ohlhausen, FTC commissioner, indicated at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s oversight hearing of the commission. She stated that FTC continues to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a rule passed in 1998 dictating that parents must grant consent before allowing their children under 13 to access certain websites. As technology develops, Ohlhausen said that COPPA must adapt and protect the devices of 13- to 18-year-olds in addition to the technology that younger kids use.

“It’s vital that personal information of children be protected,” said Edith Ramirez, FTC chairwoman.

The onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) is another area of concern among civilians and FTC members. The commissioners indicated that people have expressed anxiety about adjusting to smart homes in addition to smart cars and smartphones. Commissioner Terrell McSweeny stated that 84 percent of U.S. households are concerned about the security of IoT.

“We keep pace with developing technology,” McSweeny said. “We’re a dynamic agency, even though we’ve been around for a hundred years.”

In addition to staying abreast of security concerns regarding new tech, McSweeny also said monitoring organizations at the state and local level was important to data protection. For example, she said that FTC shut down the Cancer Fund of America for misusing millions of dollars. McSweeny also said FTC hosts Common Ground conferences throughout the country to hear concerns at a local level.

Ramirez said that FTC needs increased jurisdiction as it operates at a state and local level, calling for agency oversight of nonprofit organizations. While she acknowledged that security breaches primarily lead to monetary harm, she also said that privacy intrusion can result in more intangible forms of damage.

“Data security is one of the most significant challenges we face as a nation,” Ramirez said. “I do believe it is necessary for Congress to take action in this area.”

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Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.