California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Age-Friendly Design Act into law.
The new legislation, signed by Newsom on September 15, 2022 and passed by the state Congress in late August, will introduce some of the strictest privacy requirements for children in the US, especially regarding social media.
The law limits apps’ ability to collect data about anyone under 18 and requires them to adhere to the “highest privacy standards” for children and teens.
In addition, the law would also require technology-focused companies to implement user age verification technology before providing access to their platforms.
“We are taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and well-being of our children,” Newsom said in a news release.
However, the move was not well received by some tech companies who openly criticized it for restricting democratic freedoms.
“Though [the legislation]While the motive is well-intentioned, many of the means it has chosen are unconstitutional and could lead to unintended consequences,” commented Chris Marchis, an advisor to NetChoice, a technology and internet business trade association.
In fact, Marchese said, the law violates the First Amendment by restricting constitutionally protected speech and infringing on the editorial rights of websites, platforms and apps.
“[The bill] will also lead to the unintended consequences of shutting down the Internet, even for adults,” Marchese added.
Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, a consumer advocacy group, echoed Marchese’s view and added that the bill particularly harms LGBTQ+ youth and other vulnerable young people for whom the online community can be a lifeline.
“The bill is written so vaguely and broadly that it will almost certainly lead to the widespread use of invasive age verification methods that subject children (and everyone else) to greater surveillance while claiming to protect their privacy,” Greer said.
“Requiring age verification also makes it nearly impossible to use online services anonymously, threatening freedom of expression, especially for marginalized communities, human rights defenders, whistleblowers and journalists.”
The law will go into effect in June 2024, but at the time of writing it is unclear whether tech companies will change their policies across the US to implement the design code, or if they will limit it to specific locations.
According to David Ruiz, a threat content writer at Malwarebytes, the legislation could also be the last line of defense against stalker software.