December 5, 2023

The latest in privacy news: December 2023


Here’s what’s coming up this week and beyond in the privacy industry, including a big hearing at the Senate in January and some draft regulations on AI.

Senate calls Big Tech CEOs to hearing on kids’ privacy next month

It’s been a busy year for children’s privacy in the U.S.: 42 attorneys general sued Meta for allegedly violating COPPA with its data collection, several states passed children’s privacy laws (and many more introduced them). We saw a few federal proposals to tighten the rules for social media companies targeting children, like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as proposals to update COPPA. 

The movement to better protect children and teens online won’t abate with the calendar flip to 2024. Congress’s Senate Judiciary Committee has announced a January hearing on child exploitation featuring testimony from CEOs of the major platforms, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, and Snap’s Evan Spiegel, reports The Verge. 

Utah, Louisiana, and Mississippi passed children’s online safety bills this year, but we have yet to see lawmakers pass a bill on the federal level. Encouragingly, these latest pushes to do something for kids address more than yesterday’s concerns about data collection and advertising. They focus on the greater risks: children’s mental health. We’re shifting the conversation beyond the age a child can legally join social media sites to what happens when they get there. How are algorithms aimed at addicting kids to endlessly scroll impacting their minds and bodies? What’s the connection between time spent looking at skinny girls dancing and eating disorders, for example? Even the FTC is hiring a child psychologist to advise its regulation in this space.

The Jan. 31 hearing should be a bit spicy. Lawmakers haven’t been shy to express their displeasure with Big Tech’s willingness to talk shop. While Meta and TikTok’s CEOs agreed to testify, the others refused to accept subpoenas initially. But now they’re like, “Fiiiiine.”

Here’s what Sens. Durbin and Graham said in their press release:

“We’ve known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech. They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids. Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs. Parents and kids demand action.”

Also worth noting: TikTok won its challenge to Montana’s ban on the platform within the state, slated to come into effect Jan. 31 (the same day as the upcoming hearing!) A federal judge said the ban was likely violated the First Amendment, as Variety reports.

CPPA AI draft rules for December 8 meeting

Ahead of its Dec. 8 meeting, California’s privacy regulator released its draft rules for AI. It’s a big deal for a privacy industry jogging behind various AI deployments at our organizations. We don’t know the rules yet, we don’t know the harms yet, we don’t know the basis upon which to raise our proverbial red flags!

The IAPP’s Cobun Zweifel-Keegan did us a solid with this blog post on the draft, which explains the California Privacy Protection Agency is planning to require “risk assessments, new dedicated notices, access to an explanation of automated processing, and a mechanism for consumers to opt out of automated processing.” 

The CPPA’s working definition of automated decision-making technology is “any system, software, or process — including one derived from machine learning, statistics, other data-processing or artificial intelligence — that processes personal information and uses computation as whole or part of a system to make or execute a decision or facilitate human decision making. ADMT includes profiling.” The agency will finalize a definition through its rule-making process, which hasn’t yet begun. But for now, the draft includes six thresholds for the contexts likely to trigger ADMT’s rules.

Check out his blog post for more details on the proposal. 

Federal judge rules against Meta

In more Big Tech v. children news, a judge has ruled against Meta’s attempt to prevent changes to a 2019 FTC settlement.

Here’s what happened: In May, the FTC said it would expand the $5 billion settlement to also forbid Facebook from making money off of users under the age of 18. As Reuters reports, Meta “makes more than 98% of its income relying on digital ads targeted using personal data,” including children’s data. Meta did not like the FTC’s proposed settlement revision, so it asked a federal judge to take over for the agency.

But District Judge Timothy Kelly said the FTC can move ahead with its proposal. Meta is not a fan, and a spokesperson said it plans to appeal the decision. 

Lastly, if you’re still trying to figure out how to use AI responsibly this latest episode of The Privacy Beat podcast might help you in your quest for enlightenment. 

And, as we look toward 2024 and all it may bring to PrivacyLand, check out this chat with LTK’s Hannah Poteat and TerraTrue CEO Chris Handman on how to prioritize your to-do list. 

Happy December! We’re almost there!