TeenAge Privacy Program
The inaugural cycle of the Self-Regulation Incubator
It is no secret that teens are voracious users of technology. What may be less apparent, at least to them, is that their quest for greater engagement threatens the safety of their personal data. Teens are a unique demographic with unique concerns related to their personal data, but without specific standards to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood.
Enter the Self-Regulation Incubator of the Center for Industry Self-Regulation, the 501(c)(3) foundation created by BBB National Programs.
The first project of the incubator, beginning in summer 2021, is to bring stakeholders to the table to figure out optimal ways for companies and other organizations serving the teen market to protect the personal data of these at-risk young people. The objective of this work, under the leadership of BBB National Programs’ Senior Vice President for Privacy Initiatives Dona Fraser, will be to ready teenage privacy principles for launch in Q1 2022.
In a recent study, BBB National Programs found that 82 percent of teen apps in the dataset were ad-supported compared to only 52 percent of general apps. (Risky Business, The Current State of Teen Privacy in the Android App Marketplace.) With 83 percent of mobile device users aged 13-17 downloading a new app at least once a month, that risk increases twelvefold. To protect teen privacy interests, some lawmakers are proposing to raise the protected age range under Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to include teens. Recently, we have seen the PROTECT Kids Act, the Kids PRIVCY Act, and the KIDS Act each applying certain concepts from COPPA to children under the ages of 16 or 17.
The intention is worthy, but the specifics come up short. Defining a website, app, or platform as a “teen space” is much more complex than identifying child-directed content. And the unique teen audience is strikingly different than COPPA’s current targeted age range of under 13. Teens occupy an intermediate space between childhood and adulthood, which demands a nuanced approach to setting new standards, not merely changing the age limit under COPPA.
For companies looking to provide services to the teen market, the constriction of privacy protections and misapplied solutions looms. A 2019 Cisco Consumer Privacy Study showed that 87 percent of companies are experiencing sales delays caused by their customers’ privacy concerns. This number will likely rise as a plethora of digital privacy laws, including the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), take effect. Meanwhile, the call for increased regulation is accelerating, despite a lack of understanding around long-term consequences of hasty regulatory action.
In this environment, constant adaptation is the rule. The potential for online teen risk is accelerating as technology advances faster than any legislation can address. And, with legislation often arriving with unintended impediments to growth and innovation, informed solutions will be vital.
of U.S. mobile device owners ager 13 to 17 downloaded an app at least once a month*
of teens use social media with 70% saying they use it multiple times a day, up from 34% in 2012*
of teens believe that tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on devices*
of teens have their own smartphone, more than doubling since 2012*
*See sources cited in Risky Business: The Current State of Teen Privacy in the Android App Marketplace
The Incubator Convening
With a kickoff in Summer, 2021, the TAPP convening of the Self-Regulation Incubator is due to conclude in early 2022. Engaging on this issue is a diverse set of industry stakeholders, all with particular perspectives on the challenges of addressing the unique privacy needs of teenage consumers.
To become involved in the TAPP convening, or to be kept up to date on this issue, please complete the form below.