California’s new law to improve children’s online privacy and safety has the industry on edge, and critics warn of internet disruption, but advocates say most users won’t see big changes.
Why is this important: The California law mirrors a British standard that has prompted some changes from big tech companies, but hasn’t drastically changed the online landscape.
Drive the news The bipartisan California Age Appropriate Design Code Actsigned Thursday by Governor Gavin Newsom, requires online platforms to consider the best interests of users under 18 when designing their services.
- Sites likely to be visited by children and teenagers will be prohibited from using their personal information, collecting location data or profiling them by default.
- Websites and apps should estimate the age range of their user population to determine if they are likely to be viewed by teenagers and children, and implement measures to protect these users.
What is happening: The age estimate requirement has sparked an outcry that the law will change the way users browse the web by requiring them to prove their age before accessing a site.
- That could mean websites or apps will require users to upload government IDs or require facial scans to prove their age, Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and criticism of the measuresays Axios.
- He called the law a “neutron bomb” for the internet and said it would lead to more invasive practices under the guise of protecting children.
- “It won’t just affect children, it will affect every user, adult or child,” Goldman told Axios. “We’re all going to have to relearn how to use the internet.”
Yes, but: Instagram, YouTube, Meta and TikTok have made changes to their services to make experiences for teenage users more private and safer ahead of the UK’s age-appropriate design code. ‘last year.
- Instagram in August announcement this would place all new users under the age of 16 in its most restrictive content setting and prompt existing users in that age group to apply this setting, which aims to limit access to sensitive content.
A spokesperson for Meta called the California law “an important development,” but noted that the company still had concerns about some of the provisions.
- “We believe young people should have consistent protections across all the apps and online services they use, which is why we support clear industry standards in this area,” the Meta spokesperson said in a statement.
TechNet Technology Industry Association opposes the measure, in part because lawmakers have not agreed to lower the age threshold to under 16, said Dylan Hoffman, TechNet’s executive director for California and the Southwest, in Axios.
- He predicted that companies will vary in how they implement the age estimation requirement.
- “Maybe the worst case scenario requires additional personal information to verify that you are the age you claim to be,” Hoffman said. “But I also think the kind of barriers it puts up to the opening of the internet, not just for children but also for adults, is equally concerning.”
The other side: Proponents say the age estimation requirement doesn’t mean users will have to share their ages, and sites that already collect data likely know their users’ ages.
- “If your website is safe for everyone, you don’t need to estimate age,” Nichole Rocha, US affairs manager for the legislation-supporting 5Rights Foundation, told Axios.
- “But if there are data processing practices that could harm children, you will need to carry out an impact assessment and determine how you can mitigate the risks to users.”
What they say : Both fight for the futurea digital rights advocacy group, and NetChoicea technology association, say the law is unconstitutional because it infringes the editorial rights of websites and apps.
The California measure comes into force in 2024 and gives companies 90 days to “remediate” their site violations before incurring fines.
- “The bill focuses on establishing a floor of safety and security for young people,” Nicole Gill, co-founder and executive director of Accountable Tech, which supports the legislation, told Axios.
- A wide range of “sites and apps” simply won’t fall under this, “she says, because they don’t engage in practices the bill prohibits from deploying to child users, such as advertising. targeted or storing location data.
What they say : “The purpose of the bill is not to make Sesame Street safer,” Rocha told Axios. “It’s about making the places where young people and teenagers hang out online safer.”