- California could soon get a new law to strengthen children’s online privacy protections.
- AB 2273 draws inspiration from a similar bill passed in Great Britain in 2021.
- Some privacy advocates aren’t convinced the bill has what it takes to crack down on online platforms.
Privacy advocates have long called for crackdowns on apps and popular online networks to make them safer for children. It seems they may soon get their way.
California lawmakers have passed a bill called the California Age-Appropriate Design Code (AB 2273), which aims to strengthen federal standards and hold online platforms accountable if they fail to take steps to ensure safety for children. However, privacy advocates are divided on the effectiveness of future legislation. While some welcomed the bill, saying it finally puts the privacy, safety and well-being of children above commercial interests, others were unimpressed.
“The bill has serious implications for ensuring the ‘health and well-being’ of children,” Tom Garrubba, director of third-party risk management at Echelon Risk + Cyber, told Lifewire via email.[which is] something that many parent organizations and privacy activists have criticized big tech for years for turning a blind eye to.”
A good start
The California Senate has already approved the bipartisan bill AB 2273, which is now with Governor Gavin Newsom awaiting his signature into law.
The California proposal echoes new rules passed in 2021 in the U.K. that will regulate how tech companies can target kids with things like push notifications to “put the best interests of the child first.”
“I like the tone of this bill mainly because it applies an additional concept of ‘privacy by design’ focused on children called ‘age-appropriate by design,'” Garrubba said. Platforms, he added, will have to demonstrate compliance or face significant penalties, ranging from $2,500 per child if the violation was negligent to $7,500 per child if the violation is found to be intentional.
Interestingly, the new privacy rules proposed in the bill will not only apply to social apps such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, but also to a very wide range of other online platforms that children may have access to.
“I am very interested to see if Instagram, TikTok and YouTube will take this bill as seriously as the UK law, as they have reportedly strengthened their child protection systems to comply,” Garrubba added.
But is it too little, too late?
However, some privacy advocates, like Melissa Bischoping, director of endpoint security research at Tanium and the mother of a teenager, believe AB 2273 is not adequately designed to protect young people from what they say are manipulative methods used by online platforms.
“No one can argue that websites and apps should be designed and maintained in a way that makes kids — really everyone — safer when using their technology,” Bishoping told Lifewire via email. “However, AB 2273 may be a poorly designed solution to current gaps in online privacy and security protection and enforcement.”
For example, Bishoping notes that in order to comply with the proposed law, a site must establish a visitor’s age with a “reasonable level of certainty.” She believes that this will be abused by platforms to more invasively track each visitor.
Another concern she has is that if age detection is implemented as a lazy flag solution that asks users for their age, it will only annoy users who are already annoyed by cookie permission pop-ups. and can probably be easily missed by entering the wrong year of birth.
“While the spirit of the bill is in the right place, the administration and enforcement of the law will inevitably cause more headaches for all consumers and very little benefit for the digital well-being of our children, other than being costly to enforce vaguely defined criteria,” Bishoping said.
Rather than hoping for a bill, Bischoping encourages parents to be more involved in determining how their data and their children’s data is handled by the sites and services they use, so they can make informed choices about subscriptions, relevant advertising or blockers cookie files. , and teach your children how to protect online data as they reach adulthood in the digital world.”
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