Pioneering Children’s Online Privacy Act Heads to Government Office Newsom

Student in Sacramento class
Students in a classroom at a school in Sacramento. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for CalMatters

When does a child become an adult? It’s an elusive question that evolutionary psychologists, philosophers, and parents might answer differently.

But lawmakers cannot work with ambiguity. So in the late ’90s, Congress decided That is – at least when it comes to browsing the web – kids are under 13.

Last week, California lawmakers said: No. Children are under the age of 18. And if Governor Gavin Newsom signs a bill he just passed, children under the age of 18 in California will have more online privacy rights.

What young people face on apps and the web is becoming a growing concern for parentsfed by disturbing headlines And the new search. So a bipartisan group of lawmakers pushed the California Age-appropriate Design Act, also known as AB 2273. After being passed unanimously by the legislature last week, the bill could become a model for other states — or provide a roadmap for Congress, a Consider her privacy bill.

“Social media is something that was not designed with children in mind,” said Emily “Amy” Kim, 18, who lives in Porter Ranch, near Los Angeles.

Kim divides her time as legislative director of the Log Off Movement, a youth-led organization that championed the bill, while also attending college classes and working at Chipotle.

Here’s what the bill will do

If signed into law, companies in California that provide online services or products that children under 18 will likely access will have to provide greater privacy protections by default starting in July 2024. Specifically, the bill:

  • Require companies to assess the potential harm in how they use children’s data in new services or features, and create a plan to reduce risks before the feature is rolled out.
  • Prevent companies from using children’s information in a way the company knows (or has reason to know) to be “materially harmful” to their well-being — such as pushing children into pictures of skinny models after searching for weight loss information.
  • In general, companies are prohibited from collecting, selling, sharing or retaining any personal information of a child, unless it is necessary to provide a service that is used directly by the child.
  • Ban companies from collecting, selling, or sharing children’s precise location data by default, unless strictly necessary for this feature, and then only for a limited time.
  • Ask the producer to show children when they are being tracked, if the company allows parents or adults to track children online.

If some of those requirements seem vague, the bill also creates a new working group — made up of experts in children’s data privacy, computer science, mental health and more — to make recommendations to the legislature.

The law will be enforced by the state attorney general, who can bring civil lawsuits that can result in penalties of up to $7,500 per child for intentional violations.

Carla Garcia, mother of an 11-year-old in the Palms neighborhood of west Los Angeles, is supporting the bill as she hopes it will rein in the algorithms that attract her son, Alessandro Greco, to YouTube. “He knows it’s an addiction,” she said of her son America’s Got Talent’s tune-ups, which prevents him from doing his homework. “Honestly, I have this fight every night with my kid.”

“I want him to gain his independence, but this is stronger than him,” Garcia said.

How does the law work elsewhere

The idea is borrowed from a UK Lawwhich went into effect in September 2021. Since the law was passed, tech companies have made changes, including the following:

  • YouTube has turned off autoplay – the feature that plays videos continuously – for users under 18.
  • Google has made SafeSearch the default option for users under 18, and has stopped tracking children’s location data.
  • TikTok has stopped sending late-night push notifications to teens. 13-15 year olds don’t get push notifications after 9pm, and 16-17 year olds don’t get push notifications after 10pm. The company has also disabled direct messages for users under the age of 16.

Who becomes a child?

The bill faced opposition from lobbying organizations representing technology companies and other companies, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the Entertainment Software Association and TechNet. TechNet counts Amazon, Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Uber among its members. organizations argue The law would apply to more sites than necessary.

“It’s another example of why we need a federal privacy law that includes global standards to protect children online rather than a patchwork of state laws that create confusion and compliance complexities for companies,” said Dylan Hoffman, TechNet CEO overseeing California and the Southwest. in the current situation.

It was one of the major changes the groups pushed for Reduce the definition of the bill for the child From 18 to 13, as per federal law. Then they defended 16, the minimum in California privacy law, Hoffman said. But business groups were not successful in this batch.

Baroness Beban Kidron, a member of the UK House of Lords, who led the effort to get UK law passed, and created the 5Rights Foundation, which sponsored the California bill, said. “You cannot ask a 13-year-old to make adult decisions,” Kidron said.

what happened after that?

First, Newsom will decide whether he wants to sign the bill into law or veto it. If he signs it, most of the measure’s requirements won’t take effect until 2024.

Nicole Rocha, head of American affairs at the 5Rights Foundation, said companies should start identifying and mitigating risks to children immediately. In other words, if the bill is signed into law, companies could start rolling out the changes before 2024.

What if companies don’t want to comply? Would the threat of a potential lawsuit from the California attorney general be enough to spur them to action?

“I’m going to follow that very carefully,” said Buffy Weeks, a Democrat from Auckland and one of the bill’s authors. She said the legislature could pass another bill if the way the law is being enforced needs improvement. “We can sit here and put policies in place all day, but if it’s not implemented, and it’s not enforced, sort of, then what’s the point?”

CalMatters It is a public interest journalism project committed to explaining how the California State Capitol functions and why it is important.

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