WASHINGTON – Congressman Chuck Edwards (NC-11) just introduced the Transparency Over Toys Spying (TOTS) Act (H.R. 413), Edwards’ first sponsored legislation in the 118th Congress.

The TOTS Act requires that so-called “smart toys,” which connect to Bluetooth and the internet and which – unbeknownst to parents – collect data on their children, be clearly labeled and have data security policies that parents can easily understand and access.

Most smart toys are manufactured in China. It is unclear what Chinese companies that make these toys do with the information collected on children and American households.

“Parents need to know what’s going on with the toys they buy their children,” said Edwards. “The Federal Trade Commission has allowed smart-toy manufacturers to fly under the radar with weak data security practices hidden in vague privacy policies, jeopardizing the privacy of our nation’s children and families.

“This lack of transparency leaves the door open for toy companies to literally spy on children, gathering information on the child’s likes, dislikes and lifestyle.

“Parents should be fully aware of a toy’s ability to collect their child’s data before making a purchase, but the burden should not be on them to do a deep dive of every toy’s data-privacy policy before buying it. These data collection and security practices must be held to a higher standard of transparency.”


The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 requires website and online service operators, including operators of smart toys, to provide direct notice and obtain verifiable consent from parents before collecting, using or disclosing personal information of children under 13.

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) current interpretation of COPPA only requires toy companies to post privacy policies online and accepts credit or debit card transactions as verifiable parental consent. Thus, parents are at risk of consenting to their child’s data collection without even knowing the toy can store information, placing the onus on parents to research and understand the data security and privacy protections of a toy prior to purchase.

The TOTS Act strengthens key shortfalls in notification standards under COPPA by:

– Requiring toy companies to clearly label the exterior of the toy’s packaging that the toy can collect and share personal information, and whether such information is kept by the toy, the manufacturer, or a third-party entity.
– Requiring toy companies to make data security policies and practices easy to locate and read, including making sure this information is highlighted and is the first text presented on the user agreement or privacy policy.
– Directing the FTC to enforce these requirements as authorized by the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The TOTS Act does not expand the FTC’s power or authority.