CDD Filings Digital Youth

  • Advocates File Amicus in Support of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act

    Groups explain to court in NetChoice case the ways commercial surveillance marketers track & target kids

    Today a coalition of groups and individuals filed an Amicus Brief in support of the CAADCA, including Fairplay Inc., Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense, 5Rights Foundation, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Accountable Tech, Beyond the Screen, Children & Screens, Design It For Us, The Tyler Clementi Foundation, Becca Schmill Foundation, Arturo Béjar, Frances Haugen.
    woman in dress holding sword figurine by Tingey Injury Law Firm
  • Common Sense Media (“Common Sense”), the Center for Digital Democracy (“CDD”), and Fairplay submit comments in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (“NTIA’s”) Request for Comment re its Initiative to Protect Youth Mental Health, Safety & Privacy Online.
  • In comments to the Federal Trade Commission, EPIC, the Center for Digital Democracy, and Fairplay urged the FTC to center privacy and data security risks as it evaluates Yoti Inc’s proposed face-scanning tool for obtaining verifiable parental consent under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).In a supplementary filing CDD urges the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to reject the parent-consent method proposed by the applicants Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and EPIC Games’ SuperAwesome division. Prior to any decision, the FTC must first engage in due diligence and investigate the contemporary issues involving the role and use of facial coding technology and its potential impact on children’s privacy. The commission must have a robust understanding of the data flows and insight generation produced by facial coding technologies, including the debate over their role as a key source of “attention” metrics, which are a core advertising measurement modality. Since this proposal is designed to deliver a significant expansion of children’s data collection—given the constellation of brands, advertisers and publishers involved with the applicants and their child-directed market focus—a digital “cautionary” principle on this consent method is especially required here. Moreover, one of the applicants, as well as several key affiliates of the ESRB—EPIC Games, Amazon, and Microsoft—have recently been sanctioned for violating COPPA, and any approval in the absence of a thorough fact-finding here would be premature. 
  • Coalition of child advocacy, health, safety, privacy and consumer organization document how data-driven marketing undermines privacy and welfare of young peopleChildren and teenagers experience widespread commercial surveillance practices to collect data used to target them with marketing. Targeted and personalized advertising remains the dominant business model for digital media, with the marketing and advertising industry identifying children and teens as a prime target. Minors are relentlessly pursued while, simultaneously, they are spending more time online than ever before. Children’s lives are filled with surveillance, involving the collection of vast amounts of personal data of online users. This surveillance, informed by behavior science and maximized by evolving technologies, allows platforms and marketers to profile and manipulate children.The prevalence of surveillance advertising and targeted marketing aimed at minors is unfair in violation of Section 5. Specifically, data-driven marketing and targeted advertising causes substantial harm to children and teens by:violating their privacy;manipulating them into being interested in harmful products;undermining their autonomyperpetuating discrimination and bias;Additionally, the design choices tech companies use to optimize engagement and data collection in order to target marketing to minors further harm children and teens. These harms include undermining their physical and mental wellbeing and increasing the risk of problematic internet risk. These harms cannot reasonably be avoided by minors or their families, and there are no countervailing benefits to consumers or competition that outweigh these harms.Surveillance advertising is also deceptive to children, as defined by the Federal Trade Commission. The representations made about surveillance advertising by adtech companies, social media companies, apps, and games are likely to mislead minors and their parents and guardians. These misrepresentations and omissions are material. Many companies also mislead minors and their guardians by omission because they fail to disclose important information about their practices. These practices impact the choices of minors and their families every day as they use websites, apps, and services without an understanding of the complex system of data collection, retention, and sharing that is used to influence them online. We therefore urge the Commission to promulgate a rule that prohibits targeted marketing to children and teenagers.Groups filing the comment included: The Center for Digital Democracy, Fairplay, and #HalfTheStory, American Academy of Pediatrics, Becca Schmill Foundation, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Federation of California, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action, Enough is Enough,, Lynn’s Warriors, National Eating Disorders Association, Parents Television and Media Council, ParentsTogether, Peace Educators Allied for Children Everywhere (P.E.A.C.E.), Public Citizen and UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health FairPlay's executive director Josh Golin said: "Big Tech's commercial surveillance business model undermines young people's wellbeing and development.  It causes kids and teens to spend excessive time online, and exposes them to harmful content and advertising targeted to their vulnerabilities. The FTC must adopt a series of safeguards to allow vulnerable youth to play, learn, and socialize online without being manipulated or harmed. Most importantly, the Commission should prohibit data-driven advertising and marketing to children and teens, and make clear that Silicon Valley profits cannot come at the expense of young people's wellbeing.”CDD's Jeff Chester underscored this saying: "Children and teens are key commercial targets of today’s data-driven surveillance complex.  Their lives are tethered to a far-reaching system that is specifically designed to influence how they spend their time and money online, and uses artificial intelligence, virtual reality, geo-tracking, neuromarketing and more to do so.  In addition to the loss of privacy, surveillance marketing threatens their well-being, health and safety. It’s time for the Federal Trade Commission to enact safeguards that protect young people. "[full filing attached]
  • At every turn, young people face tricks and traps to keep them online for hours and sharing sensitive data. Contact:David Monahan, Fairplay: david@fairplayforkids.orgJeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy: jeff@democraticmedia.orgAdvocates to FTC: Write rules to protect kids from harmful manipulative design onlineAt every turn, young people face tricks and traps to keep them online for hoursand sharing sensitive data.BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON, DC – November 17, 2022 – A coalition of leading health and privacy advocates filed a petition today asking the Federal Trade Commission to promulgate a rule prohibiting online platforms from using unfair design features to manipulate children and teens into spending excessive time online. Twenty-one groups, led by Fairplay and the Center for Digital Democracy, said in their petition: “When minors go online, they are bombarded by widespread design features that have been carefully crafted and refined for the purpose of maximizing the time users spend online and activities users engage in.” They urged the FTC to establish rules of the road to establish when these practices cross the line into unlawful unfairness.The advocates’ petition details how the vast majority of apps, games, and services popular among minors generate revenue primarily via advertising, and many employ sophisticated techniques to cultivate lucrative long term relationships between minors and their brands. As a result, platforms use techniques like autoplay, endless scroll, and strategically timed advertisements to keep kids and teens online as much as possible– which is not in their best interests.The petition also details how manipulative design features on platforms like TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat undermine young people’s wellbeing. Excessive time online displaces sleep and physical activity, harming minors’ physical and mental health, growth, and academic performance. Features designed to maximize engagement also expose minors to potential predators and online bullies and age-inappropriate content, harm minors’ self-esteem, and aggravate risks of disordered eating and suicidality. The manipulative tactics also undermine children’s and teens’ privacy by encouraging the disclosure of massive amounts of sensitive user data.The advocates’ petition comes just months after California passed its Age Appropriate Design Code, a law requiring digital platforms to act in the best interests of children, and as momentum grows in Congress for the Kids and Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act.The petition was drafted by the Communications and Technology Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. Haley Hinkle, Policy Counsel, Fairplay:“The manipulative tactics described in this Petition that are deployed by social media platforms and apps popular with kids and teens are not only harmful to young people’s development– they’re unlawful. The FTC should exercise its authority to prohibit these unfair practices and send Big Tech a message that manipulating minors into handing over their time and data is not acceptable.”Katharina Kopp, Deputy Director, Center for Digital Democracy:“The hyper-personalized, data-driven advertising business model has hijacked our children’s lives. The design features of social media and games have been purposefully engineered to keep young people online longer and satisfy advertisers. It’s time for the FTC to put an end to these unfair and harmful practices. They should adopt safeguards that ensure platforms and publishers design their online content so that it places the well-being of young people ahead of the interests of marketers.”Jenny Radesky, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Michigan and Chair-elect, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media:“As a pediatrician, helping parents and teens navigate the increasingly complex digital landscape in a healthy way has become a core aspect of my work. If the digital environment is designed in a way that supports children’s healthy relationships with media, then it will be much easier for families to create boundaries that support children’s sleep, friendships, and safe exploration. However, this petition highlights how many platforms and games are designed in ways that actually do the opposite: they encourage prolonged time on devices, more social comparisons, and more monetization of attention. Kids and teens are telling us that these types of designs actually make their experiences with platforms and apps worse, not better. So we are asking federal regulators to help put safeguards in place to protect against the manipulation of children’s behavior and to instead prioritize their developmental needs.”Professor Laura Moy, Director, Communications & Technology Law Clinic at Georgetown Law, and counsel for Center for Digital Democracy and Fairplay:“As any parent or guardian can attest, games and social media apps keep driving kids and teens to spend more and more time online, in a way that neither minors nor their guardians can reasonably prevent. This is neither accidental nor innocuous—it's engineered and it's deeply harmful. The FTC must step in and set some boundaries to protect kids and teens. The FTC should clarify that the most harmful and widespread design features that manipulate users into maximizing time online, such as those employed widely by social media services and popular games, are unlawful when used on minors.” Groups signing on to the petition include: Center for Digital Democracy; Fairplay; Accountable Tech; American Academy of Pediatrics; Becca Schmill Foundation, Inc.; Berkeley Media Studies Group; C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth; Center for Humane Technology; Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development; Eating Disorders Coalition; Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC);; Lynn's Warriors; Network for Public Education; Parent Coalition for Student Privacy; ParentsTogether Action; Protect Young Eyes; Public Citizen; Together for Girls; U.S. Public Interest Research Group; and UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health.###ftc_engagement_petition_pr1.pdf, unfair_design_practices_petition_for_rulemaking_final_combined_filing.pdf
    Jeff Chester
  • CDD and Advocates Call on the FTC to Begin Rulemaking to Prohibit Surveillance AdvertisingJanuary 26, 2022Federal Trade CommissionOffice of the Secretary600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20580Re: Comment on Petition for Rulemaking by Accountable Tech, FTC-2021-0070  INTRODUCTIONCenter for Digital Democracy, Common Sense, Fairplay, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and ParentsTogether strongly support the Petition for Rulemaking to Prohibit Surveillance Advertising filed by Accountable Tech1. We agree that this action is necessary to stop the exploitation of children and teens2.Surveillance advertising, also known as behavioral or targeted advertising, has become the standard business model for a wide array of online platforms with companies utilizing this practice to micro-target all consumers, including children and teens. Surveillance advertising involves the collection of vast amounts of personal data of online users, their demographics, behaviors, preferences, characteristics, and the production of inferences. To create detailed advertising profiles from this data, users are  tracked across websites and devices; they are classified, sorted, and even discriminated against via targeting and exclusion; and ultimately are left vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation.Young people are especially susceptible to the risks posed by surveillance advertising, which is why leading public health advocates like the American Academy of Pediatrics have called for a ban on surveillance advertising to children under 18 years old3. Children’s and teens’ online experiences are shaped by the affordances of surveillance marketing, which entrap them in a complex system purposefully designed to manipulate their behaviors and emotions, while leveraging their data in the process. Young people are a significant audience for the real-time ad profiling and targeting apparatus operated through programmatic platforms and technologies, which poses fundamental risks to their privacy, safety and well-being.  Surveillance advertising is harmful to young people in several ways. First, young people are already more susceptible to advertising’s negative effects and surveillance advertising allows marketers to manipulate children and teens even more effectively. Second, surveillance advertising allows advertisers to target children’s individual vulnerabilities. Third, surveillance advertising can exacerbate inequities by allowing advertisers to target (or abstain from targeting) marginalized communities. Fourth, behavioral advertising is the driving force behind a complex system of data collection and surveillance that tracks all of children’s online activity, undermining young people’s privacy and wellbeing. Finally, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act has failed to effectively protect children under thirteen from surveillance advertising and a more expansive prohibition is needed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable users online.For these reasons, we urge the Commission to protect children and teens by prohibiting surveillance advertising.......Please read the full petition, see PDF below......____________________________________________186 Fed. Reg. 73206 (Dec. 27, 2021).2Pet’n for Rulemaking at 32-33.3Jenny Radesky, Yolanda (Linda) Reid Chassiakos, Nusheen Ameenuddin, Dipesh Navsaria, Council on Communications and Media; Digital Advertising to Children. Pediatrics July 2020; 146 (1): e20201681. 10.1542/peds.2020-1681.childrens_coalition_survadv_1-26-22.pdf
  • Contact: Jeff Chester, CDD (link sends e-mail); 202-494-7100David Monahan, CCFC, (link sends e-mail)Advocates say Google Play continues to disregard children’s privacy law and urge FTC to act BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON, DC — March 31, 2021—Today, advocacy groups Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Google’s promotion of apps which violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In December 2018, CCFC and CDD led a coalition of 22 consumer and health advocacy groups in asking the FTC to investigate these same practices. Since then Google has made changes to the Play Store, but the advocates say these changes fail to address the core problem: Google is certifying as safe and appropriate for children apps that violate COPPA and put children at risk. Recent studies found that a significant number of apps in Google Play violate COPPA by collecting and sharing children’s personal information without getting parental consent. For instance, a JAMA Pediatrics study found that 67% of apps used by children aged 5 and under were transmitting personal identifiers to third parties.Comment of Angela Campbell, Chair of the Board of Directors, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Professor Emeritus, Communications & Technology Law Clinic, Georgetown University Law Center:“Parents reasonably expect that Google Play Store apps designated as ‘Teacher approved’ or appropriate for children under age 13 comply with the law protecting children’s privacy. But far too often, that is not the case. The FTC failed to act when this problem was brought to its attention over two years ago. Because children today are spending even more time using mobile apps, the FTC must hold Google accountable for violating children’s privacy.”Comment of Jeff Chester, executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy:"The Federal Trade Commission must swiftly act to stop Google’s ongoing disregard of the privacy and well-being of children. For too long, the Commission has allowed Google’s app store, and the data marketing practices that are its foundation, to operate without enforcing the federal law that is designed to protect young people under 13. With children using apps more than ever as a consequence of the pandemic, the FTC should enforce the law and ensure Google engages with kids and families in a responsible manner."###