Kids say the darndest things, and California wants to make sure that when it comes to their online postings those kids get a do-over. On January 2015, California law SB 568 entitled “Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World” will go into effect, allowing minors to remove certain posted online content as well as restricting certain types of online advertising directed to minors.
We have previously discussed California (see posts) and its continued stance as a leader in data privacy legislation, and this is no different. California’s enactment of SB 568 focuses on expanding the online safeguards that the FTC put in place for minors with COPPA, as well as giving a nod to a topic of heavy debate in Europe—the right to be forgotten.
Section 22581 of SB 568 requires website and mobile app operators to permit minors to remove or request removal of content or information posted on the operator’s website by the minor. What makes SB 568 different from COPPA and other federal privacy legislation is that the California law defines minor to include anyone under 18.
Section 22581 requires operators to provide notice of this erasure option to minors, and provide minors who are registered users with clear instructions on how the user may remove or request removal of posted content. Even though Section 22581 has been dubbed “California’s Internet Eraser Law” by some, it is important to note that web operators will still be found compliant under the law if, “despite making the original posting by the minor user invisible, it remains visible because a third party has copied the posting or reposted the content or information” that was originally posted by the minor.
While not receiving as much attention as Section 22581, SB 568 also contains restrictions on specific online marketing and advertising to minors. Section 22580 prohibits operators of website and mobile applications that are directed to minors from marketing or advertising certain products or services on their online platforms. The prohibited products and services include alcoholic beverages, firearms or handguns, tobacco products, dangerous fireworks, aerosol paint containers, tattoos, tanning beds, and dietary supplements containing ephedrine group alkaloids.
Under the California law, a website “directed to minors” means a site “that it is created for the purpose of reaching an audience that is predominantly comprised of minors, and is not intended for a more general audience comprised of adults.” Websites that host content directed at very young children, like www.sesamestreet.org, are clearly “directed to minors.” But it becomes harder to assess if a website is “predominantly directed to minors” when the website hosts content that targets an audience that includes teenagers and young adults. In addition, advertising of any prohibited products or services that is knowingly and specifically targeted to anyone under the age of 18 is also prohibited.
California legislators have indicated that in order to comply with SB 568, it is up to website operators to individually assess their posted web content and decide whether their site or service is “predominantly” directed to minors. Web operators whose sites fall under SB 568 will be deemed in compliance if they take “reasonable actions in good faith” to avoid advertising or marketing any of the prohibited products or services. The bill also states that web operators which employ third party advertising services can comply with SB 568 by notifying the advertising service that the site is “directed to minors.”
No doubt once SB 568 takes effect additional issues may arise but for now website operators who potentially direct their sites to teenagers or who operate general sites but collect age information may want to keep an eye on the advertisements they carry.