George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

PEP Files Comment in Response to the FTC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule

Earlier this week, the Law & Economics Center‘s Program on Economics & Privacy (PEP), along with the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project, filed a comment in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.

The comment focuses on those parts of the proposal that are most likely to impact operators’ incentives to provide online services for children: limitations on engagement; data minimization; and duplicative consent requirements. Together, these proposed modifications to the COPPA rule are likely to reduce the quantity and quality of online services for children by directly chilling operators’ incentives to improve their products and by reducing revenue streams needed to produce online services. The comment concludes that for regulatory intervention of this scale, the FTC must conduct a rigorous cost-benefit analysis that compares the reduction in consumer surplus from losses in online services against any benefits in mental and physical health to children, which it simply has failed to do. The comment also points out the legal frailty of these proposals. First, while there may be legitimate reasons to be concerned about children spending too much time on screens, Congress did not design COPPA to address this concern but left that in the hands of parents. Modifications to the COPPA rule adopted to address these concerns go beyond congressional authorization as found in the COPPA statute. Second, restrictions that reduce children’s ability to receive online content and to communicate online violate the First Amendment unless they are narrowly tailored to address an important government interest. Given the lack of empirical evidence the Commission has mustered, the comment concludes the FTC will have serious difficulty convincing a court that encouraging “engagement” (i.e., more speech) is categorically harmful, and the proposed rule modifications that would interfere with engagement will be struck down for failure to identify a government interest.

You can view the full joint comment here.

Call for Proposals for Large-Scale Empirical Research

The Program on Economics & Privacy (PEP), part of the Law & Economics Center at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, has accepted proposals for large-scale empirical research on various facets of the economics of privacy.

To learn more details, please click below.

Continue reading “Call for Proposals for Large-Scale Empirical Research”

Exploring the Role of Data Enclosure in the Digital Political Economy

Dr. Brenden Kuerbis, a Research Scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Public Policy, and his coauthor Dr. Milton Mueller, Professor and Program Director, Masters of Science in Cybersecurity Policy at the George Institute of Technology, have published the paper “Exploring the Role of Data Enclosure in the Digital Political Economy”. The paper can be read here.

Webinar: 2023 Privacy Update: FTC, Congress, and the States


2023 is turning out to be an eventful year for privacy policy.  The FTC has proposed modifications to its Facebook order that would keep Facebook from monetizing data from minors, and has flexed its enforcement powers through a broad interpretation of its Health Breach Notification Rule—one that it now wants to codify.  At the same time, a federal judge dismissed the Commission’s case against Kochava for failure to sufficiently allege consumer harm, and the Supreme Court dealt it another blow to the FTC in Axon, which is likely to spur additional challenges to the constitutionality of the FTC and its (recently amended) administrative adjudication procedures.   All the while, Congress continues to consider various privacy bills, with the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) appearing to gain the most traction.  And states are jumping in to fill the void left by congressional inaction with their own privacy laws, as well as laws directed at social media platforms.

Adam Kovacevich, Founder, CEO, Chamber of Progress
Maneesha Mithal, Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Andrew Stivers, Director, NERA Economic Consulting
Moderated by:
James C. Cooper, Professor of Law; Director, Program on Economics & Privacy, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

New Publication: COPPAcalypse? The Youtube Settlement’s Impact on Kids Content

New research from James Cooper, Garrett Johnson, Tesary Lin, and  Liang Zhong uses YouTube’s settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as a natural experiment to evaluate the impact of eliminating personalization— including tailored ads and platform features like personalized search and content recommendations—on made-for-kids content.  The study of  5,066 top American YouTube channels from 2018-2020 finds that child-directed content creators produce 13% less content and pivot towards producing non-child-directed content. On the demand side, views of child-directed channels fall by 22%. Consistent with the platform’s degraded capacity to match viewers to content, the study finds that content creation and content views become more concentrated among top child-directed YouTube channels.  Read the full study here.