California’s proposed law could change the internet

Today for the better Or worse, the internet is a free domain for kids. Websites ask for the ages of their users, sure. But almost anyone who has come of age around the Internet can recount a time or twenty years when they provided a false birth date.

California law in action now could bring this world to a halt.

AB 2273, or the California Age-Appropriate Design Act, promises to make the internet safer for children: in part, by tightening age verification. Instead, its opponents believe that in the process AB 2273 could completely wipe out the current Internet as we know it.

AB 2273 is not final yet. In order to become California law, a bill must pass both houses of the state legislature—the Assembly and the Senate—and then obtain the governor’s signature. AB 2273 passed the Assembly on August 29, and the Senate passed the next day, raising it to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office. As of this writing, Newsom has yet to sign the bill. There are few indications as to whether he will.

Suppose it happened. Then, starting July 1, 2024, any website or app that “does business in California” and “provides an online service, product or feature accessible to children” must follow code that has not yet been developed.

California will not be the first jurisdiction to tighten age-related design standards for websites. AB 2273 explicitly cites an existing law in the UK, which expects websites to comply with detailed law Age-appropriate design icon. (In fact, both projects supportive postBaroness Biban Kidron fighter Children’s Rights Online.)

This is UK law Already ripples. YouTube has disabled the autoplay feature for users under the age of 18. Instagram has started banning adults from measuring people under 18 who they don’t follow. TikTok stops sending push notifications to under-18s after a certain point every evening.

but according to Eric Goldman, a professor of law at Santa Clara University and one of the bill’s harshest critics, in a generally less business-friendly US regulatory environment, California law is likely to be stricter. “Any ‘lessons learned’ in the UK do not extend to the US because the law literally cannot be applied in the same way,” he says.

Although there is no California code yet, AB 2273 specifies some requirements. First, websites must report their data management practices to a California government agency. Also, websites cannot collect or sell data about children (including geolocation) that is not strictly necessary for children to use the website. Websites must tell a child when a parent or guardian is tracking their activity on this website.

As AB 2273 becomes a little more controversial, the requirement, to determine which users should test what, websites should “estimate the age of child users with a reasonable level of certainty”.

“Assuming that companies do not want to intentionally undervalue their adult offerings, they would have no alternative but to verify the age of all of their customers and then separate the adults from the children, with different offerings for each,” Goldman says.

How the website can “estimate the age of child users” is not clear, and According to Techdirt, may vary by location. So, a child who accesses a “high risk” website may need to provide an identity document to verify their age. This failure, the child may literally have to wipe his face. Face recognition is not only a questionable technology, but requiring it may make websites unavailable to people without a working camera.

Although privacy is advocated by law, it is not clear that such certification can be done in a privacy-sensitive manner. Goldman says websites may rely on unsecured services.

If AB 2273 is passed, its effects may spread beyond state borders. Websites will be left with two options: geolocate users in California (possibly blocking them entirely, which could risk revenue); Or apply the rules to all of its users. Many websites will find it easier to do the latter.

Then around the world, users might have to pass the same age authentication challenge that Californians would. And according to Goldman, other jurisdictions may prosecute California for crafting their own laws.

Some sponsors and advocates for AB 2273 see the bill as a necessary measure in a world where children are exposed to risks such as Manipulative websitesAnd the invasive applicationsAnd the Social media addiction.

But from many angles, the reaction has been less than positive. AB 2273 has earned a wide range of opponents, including privacy advocates And the big technology. Goldman in Santa Clara likened the law to a neutron bomb. “This will depopulate the Internet and turn many services into ghost towns,” he says.

Of course, all this is still hypothetical. Currently, the bill awaits Governor Gavin Newson’s signature. Even if it did, AB 2273 is not immune to lawsuits. NetChoice – An advocacy group that has helped pass other laws Florida And the Texas To court – already He appears against the invoice.

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