Washington (February 16, 2022) – As major technology companies announce their plans to create and provide connection to the so-called “Metaverse” and launch new virtual reality (VR) platforms, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Lori Trahan (MA-03) wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today urging the agency to use its full authority—including its authority under the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) and Section 5 of the FTC Act—to ensure children are protected from emerging threats of manipulation and privacy invasions in the new online universe. The Metaverse refers to a virtual and augmented reality environment, which can be accessed from a variety of platforms, where users can connect and interact online. While some platforms state their VR devices should not be used by children, many adult users have nonetheless encountered numerous children online. In fact, two-thirds of parents with VR devices report that their children asked them to buy the device.
“Children’s increasing use of VR warrants serious concerns about new threats to young users’ wellbeing. Many VR platforms and headsets currently do not have basic parental controls, and reports point to harms such as harassment and unsafe content in the metaverse,” write the lawmakers in their letter. “While policymakers, parents, and pediatricians would all benefit from increased understanding about the effects—positive and negative—that VR may have on children, sufficient information exists to warrant the FTC’s vigilance in this area.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
The lawmakers previously wrote to the FTC last October, urging the agency to use its full authority—including its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act—to ensure major tech companies comply with their new policies under the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC). The AADC, which took effect in the U.K. in September 2021, requires online services available to children and teens to meet 15 key children’s privacy standards. Many of these requirements are similar to legislative proposals to update Senator Markey’s 1998 law, the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), in the United States.