Governor Brown signed a landmark bill this Monday giving minors the power to have content or information posted on the internet removed at their request. SB 568, introduced by State Senator Darrell Steinberg, has two main provisions directed at improving the protection and privacy of minors on the Internet.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg told the Los Angeles Times SB 568 is “a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences.” The first restricts operators of an Internet website, online service, online application or mobile application directed to minors from marketing or advertising products including but not limited to alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, firearms and certain dietary supplements. The second requires the same group to notify minors that they have the option of removing any content or information they post on the internet and to honor any such requests made.

The second requirement will likely have a large effect on social media websites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr, where minors communicate with their friends and social networks. Kids and teenagers often post embarrassing information or pictures on websites that they may later regret or their parents discover and want their child to remove. This law would not just provide a remedy for minors to remove embarrassing posts, but it would also provide a way for minors to remove personally identifying information they posted on the Internet, such as a new driver’s license, without knowing that it can put them at increased risk of identity theft and fraud. This is a good thing.

Unfortunately, there are many questions that the text of the law does not answer. What exactly does “directed to minors” mean? The law defines it as “reaching an audience that is predominantly comprised of minors, and is not intended for a more general audience comprised of adults.” This vague definition may confuse website operators and leave them uncertain of whether they are targeted by this law. In addition, what exactly does an operator have to delete when requested by a minor and will it have any real effect? As Gregory Ferenstein wrote on TechCrunch, the law “ignores the reality that it’s nearly impossible to delete information from the net: embarrassing photos spread virally, and Internet archives automatically create copies of nearly every piece of information on the web.” He goes on to point out that most websites already allow users to delete a post. The law requires that Internet operators have to delete only the information personally uploaded by a minor. So, a repost of something they upload would not be required to be deleted and thus may limit the practical effectiveness of the law.

While the law may have some flaws, it is a step in the right direction for attempting to improve the privacy rights of children and teenagers. It will be interesting to watch how this law is interpreted and enforced by the California court system once it becomes effective January 1, 2015. 

"California Increases Privacy Rights for Minors" was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq., CIPP, CIPA. He serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.

 

 

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