Press Release

Castor Amendment Helps FTC Go After Companies Who Fail to Protect Children's Privacy

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Washington, June 26, 2019 | comments
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) is sounding the alarm that online privacy, especially the privacy of children, is at risk due to lack of resources at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and to the growing number of companies that mine our personal information even from children’s apps and toys. The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a Castor amendment today to an important appropriations bill that will help the FTC target bad actors.
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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) is sounding the alarm that online privacy, especially the privacy of children, is at risk due to lack of resources at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and to the growing number of companies that mine our personal information even from children’s apps and toys.  The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a Castor amendment today to an important appropriations bill that will help the FTC target bad actors.

“Hardly a day goes by when personal, private or financial data isn’t lost to an online data breach or theft, but when the FTC goes after bad actors it is often too late and penalties are too insignificant.  My amendment encourages the FTC to take enforcement action against companies that fail to protect children’s privacy and encourages Congress to give the FTC the resources it needs to fulfill its overall mission,” U.S. Rep. Castor said after her amendment was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 3351), which passed out of the House today.

The FTC has broad authority to protect consumers and is tasked specifically with targeting fraud, deceptive advertising, robocalls, identity theft and online privacy.  Children have greater privacy protections under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), but the Act is in need of greater teeth.  U.S. Rep. Castor’s amendment permits the agency to use additional resources to better protect children’s privacy.  Overall, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act provides $349 million for the FTC, a $40 million increase over last year.

“My colleagues on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and I are working to improve children’s online privacy protections and my amendment is a reminder to the FTC that it must take its mission seriously by going after companies who fail to protect children's privacy,” U.S. Rep. Castor added.

Earlier this year, the FTC settled in a case against Musical.ly, now known as TikTok, for $5.7 million for illegally collecting information on children in violation of COPPA.  This marked the largest civil penalty in a children’s online privacy case, but represents only .0076% of the value of the company that owns TikTok, Chinese company Bytedance.

“Unfortunately, the penalty was too low to ensure online companies are following the law,” U.S. Rep. Castor said.  “No CEO is going to blink an eye at a fine that is inconsequential.  Companies will just see small FTC fines as a cost of doing business and will continue to elevate profits over privacy, especially when it comes to our kids.”

Currently the FTC only has 40 full-time staff devoted to protecting privacy and data security for the entire country.  In comparison, the United Kingdom – which has one-fifth of the U.S. population – has 500 full-time staff in its Information Commissioners’ office.  Ireland, with a population of less than 5 million, has nearly three times as many full-time staff – 110 – in its Data Protection Commissioner’s office.

“Americans deserve to have greater privacy protections for what they do online,” U.S. Rep. Castor said.

U.S. Rep. Castor has been a champion for protecting Americans’ personal privacy and information online.  She is a member of the influential and powerful U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight responsibilities for communications and technology policies.  Last year in her U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, she grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after reports came out that the information on some 87 million users may have been compromised.  Last month, U.S. Rep. Castor helped lead her colleagues in urging the FTC to investigate predatory online marketing that targets children.

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