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Big tech is tracking your kids, and consumer groups want the FTC to step in

Multiple consumer groups wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), calling for the organization to review how companies are marketing toward children and tracking them online.

The coalition of consumer advocacy groups includes the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and more, according to CNBC. The groups want more information and transparency in how digital media companies go about tracking children online and collecting and storing their data. 

“The FTC cannot base substantive policy decisions on the current dearth of details about how the information ecosystem functions,” the letter states. “Rather, the FTC must conduct and complete a series of long-overdue studies to shed light on these opaque industries before it adopts any privacy-related rulemaking or major policy change.”

While the letter published on Thursday doesn’t explicitly call out any digital media companies, Josh Golin, executive director of the CCFC, told CNBC that an FTC review could encompass companies like Disney, Google, TikTok, or Twitch. 

“We need the full power of the law to protect them from predatory data collection, but we can’t protect children from Big Tech business models if we don’t know how those models truly work,” Golin told CNBC. 

Digital Trends reached out to the FTC, CDD, CCFC, and AAP to comment on the letter, and we’ll update this story once we hear back.

Children’s privacy online has become a concerning issue for many as more kids start to use technology and go online at a younger age. 

In September, YouTube was hit with a $170 million fine from the FTC as part of a settlement relating to the video platform’s treatment of children. YouTube allegedly collected personal information used to track internet users from viewers on channels aimed toward children. A joint complaint from the FTC and New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged that YouTube collected this information for targeted advertisements without notifying parents or securing their consent. 

Other tech giants like Instagram are trying to keep younger children off of data collecting platforms altogether by enforcing age rules. The social media platform announced on Wednesday that it would begin to ask users for their birthday to ensure they are 13 and older. 

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