- A California bill that aims to protect children’s safety and wellbeing online was signed Thursday.
- The law prohibits companies from tracking children’s location and forces websites to protect their privacy.
- Gov. Gavin Newsom said California is taking “aggressive action” to protect kids online.
A law passed on Thursday makes California the first state to require companies to protect children’s privacy and wellbeing online, California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
The law, known as the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, will prohibit companies from tracking children’s geolocation data — unless essential to providing a service — and force websites to use the highest privacy settings available as a default for underage users.
Gov. Newsom signed the legislation proposed by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Jordan Cunningham on Thursday.
“We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement.
“As a father of four, I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online, and I’m thankful to Assemblymembers Wicks and Cunningham and the tech industry for pushing these protections and putting the wellbeing of our kids first.”
The new law is set to come into force 2024, and will build on California’s pre-existing privacy laws, already considered some of the strongest in the US.
According to a factsheet about the bill, the law will apply to any for-profit entities which have more than $25 million in annual gross revenue, any company that buys or sells the personal information of more than 100,000 users, and any website that derives 50% of annual revenue from the use of its consumers’ personal information.
Companies which fall under this criteria will be made to stop selling and collecting children’s data, tracking underage users’ location, and designing features detrimental to children’s well-being, according to the factsheet.
The law follows an earlier bill proposed by Cunningham that would have allowed parents to sue social media companies for up to $25,000 if their children become addicted to the platforms.
The bill was later defeated in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Cunningham tweeted on Thursday: “My disappointment over AB 2408 is exceeded by my joy to see AB 2273 heading to the Governor’s desk. This is the most important step ANY state has taken to ensure children’s online safety — by far!”
The law’s opponents have argued that forcing websites to verify users’ age may mean asking them to hand over more personal information, including potentially sensitive data such as face scans, CNN reported.
Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said in a blog post that the bill risked disempowering parents and normalizing face scans.