California Governor Gavin Newsom has enact a new bill that could alter the way social media platforms treat underage users. The bill, known as AB 2273, “requires online platforms to consider the best interests of child users and set default privacy and security settings that protect children’s mental and physical health and well-being,” according to a report. news release from Newsom’s office.
The law, which won’t take effect until July 2024, aims to place further restrictions on the type of data platforms can collect from children. From Newsom’s press release: “AB 2273 prohibits companies that provide online services, products, or features that are likely to be accessed by children from using a child’s personal information; collect, sell or retain the geolocation of a child; profile a child by default; and guide or encourage children to provide personal information.”
However, it is still unclear exactly what this will mean on a practical level for social media, gaming and other online platforms. And the bill has already faced heavy criticism from privacy advocates and the tech industry.
One criticism, backed by digital rights groups, is that requiring companies to identify child users could harm everyone’s privacy, not just children’s. “The bill is so vaguely and broadly worded that it will almost certainly lead to the widespread use of invasive age verification techniques that subject children (and everyone else) to heightened surveillance while claiming to protect their privacy.” , wrote Fight For the Future in denouncing the bill. “Requiring age verification also makes it nearly impossible to use online services anonymously, threatening freedom of expression, particularly for marginalized communities, human rights activists, whistleblowers and journalists.”
Newsom’s office said in a statement that a “Children’s Data Protection Task Force” would write a report on “best practices” for implementing the law by January 2024.
The California law comes as pressure on social media companies to do more to protect the privacy and well-being of children who use their platforms. Senate lawmakers have also proposed federal measures that would increase data protection for younger users, and President Joe Biden has said he supports online advertising directed at children.
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