Last week, two Senators, Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding apps designed for children and whether they are in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), See 15 U.S.C. 6501 and regulations at 16 C.F.R. Part 312 et. seq.  The Senators stated that they are concerned that thousands of apps may “improperly track children and collect their personal information.” The Senators requested a response from the FTC by October 31. The letter also asked that the FTC “investigate whether these apps, and the advertising companies they work with, are in fact tracking children with persistent identifiers and collecting their personal information in violation of COPPA…”

In addition, on October 3, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, (CCFC) along with several other organizations, sent a letter to the FTC and requested that the FTC investigate whether Facebook’s Messenger Kids messaging application violates COPPA by “…collecting personal information from children without obtaining verifiable parental consent or providing parents with clear and complete disclosures of Facebook’s data practices.”

The CCFC letter also raised concerns that Facebook Messenger Kids’ privacy policy was confusing regarding Facebook’s data sharing practices and how long Facebook retains children’s data.

These actions follow a letter we recently wrote about from two members of Congress, Representative David N. Cicilline, Rhode Island, and Representative Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska, who wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai with a list of questions regarding information collected by Google about its YouTube activities as they relate to COPPA. See 15 U.S.C. 6501 and regulations at 16 C.F.R. Part 312 et. seq. See previous blog post here.

While we wait to see the responses from the FTC to the most recent letters, parents can continue to monitor their children’s app usage and determine which apps their child is using, review the privacy policies of those apps, and make choices about what online activity is appropriate for their family.