' Solana Gillis | MTTLR

COPPA Crackdown: Why Courts are Right to Get Serious About Children’s Privacy

In February 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) collected the largest civil penalty for a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to date. The target: TikTok, a popular video sharing app. Tik Tok paid $5.7 million in a settlement after being accused of a host of privacy violations, including failing to obtain “verifiable parental consent prior to collecting, using and/or disclosing personal information from children,” and failing to delete personal information after parents requested it be deleted, or otherwise “retaining personal information longer than reasonably necessary.” COPPA was enacted in 1998 by the FTC and aims to protect children’s privacy by regulating how websites collect, use, and disclose the personal information of children—defined by COPPA as persons under the age of 13. The law is aimed at websites or online services that are directed toward children, or that have actual knowledge that they are collecting or maintaining personal information from children. The latter part is supposedly what tripped up TikTok, which does not formally allow children under the age of 13 to create their own accounts. On top of paying the monetary penalty, TikTok had to introduce several changes to the app in order to bring itself into compliance with the settlement order. This order also subjected TikTok to extensive compliance reporting and record keeping. In a statement, TikTok announced that it would be launching a “separate app experience” for its younger users. It also beefed up its privacy notifications—including a new account (@tiktoktips) that posts cutesy videos explaining how users can control the content they are exposed to—and promotes general “positive vibes” on the app....

Tablets for All, Apps for . . . Some?

Companies like Securus (including their subsidiary JPay) and Global Tel Link (GTL) have long been front runners in providing banking and communication services to prisons. They got into the tablet space in the early 2010s, allowing people in prison to email loved ones, listen to music, play games, and access educational materials on personal devices, which provided greater flexibility and privacy. Despite some positive reactions to the presence of tablets in prisons, many also express concerns about private companies operating in a largely unregulated market, which has resulted in both harm and uncertainty for consumers. Many states have partnered with such companies to run pilot programs which provide prisoners with tablets for free (however, in some states, prisoners have been paying up to $147 for a tablet). Win-win-win, right? It is certainly a win for the companies. The tablets are about the only things that are free. These companies’ “generous” foot in the door tactics lead to enormous profits as a result of purchases made on the tablets. While many see the benefits of providing tablets in prisons, the race to enter the market combined with a lack of regulation is a recipe for harm to both prisoners and prison administration. Prisons see a lot of benefit to introducing tablets into their facilities, including less conflict among prisoners, as well as—sometimes—a cut of the profits from tablet-related sales. But some facilities have found themselves unprepared to handle the technology on such a large scale. This year, Idaho prison officials discovered that over 300 prisoners hacked JPay’s system and increased their account credits by nearly $225,000. Colorado recently went so...