Tech companies will have to put extra safety features and data privacy measures in place for California children on their platforms based on a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
The law establishes the California Age Appropriate Design Code Act, which will put limits on the type of data tech companies collect on minors and set the highest default privacy settings for young users.
The bill also requires that privacy information, terms of service, policies and community standards are easily accessible and upheld.
“We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids,” Newsom said in a statement. “As a father of four, I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online, and I’m thankful to Assemblymembers [Buffy] Wicks (D) and [Jordan] Cunningham (R) and the tech industry for pushing these protections and putting the wellbeing of our kids first.”
Children’s online safety groups cheered Newsom’s signing of the bill.
“We recognize that this bill is just one step in a long-term effort to protect kids online. But it is a very important step, and time is of the essence—we must continue the momentum to expand platform accountability and online protections for children across California and the rest of the country,” Common Sense Media Founder and CEO Jim Steyer said in a statement. “We look forward to working directly with legislators and families next year on policies that will create a safer and healthier experience for kids online.”
But the bill is also facing backlash from the tech industry, as well as the digital rights group Fight for the Future.
Chris Marchese, counsel for the tech industry group NetChoice, said the bill’s motivations are “well-meaning” but “many of its chosen means are unconstitutional and risk unintended consequences.”
“The law violates the First Amendment by chilling constitutionally protected speech and by infringing on the editorial rights of websites, platforms, and apps of all sizes and ideologies,” Marchese said in a statement.
Evan Greer, a spokesperson for Fight for the Future, said in a statement the bill is “so vaguely and broadly written that it will almost certainly lead to widespread use of invasive age verification techniques that subject children (and everyone else) to more surveillance while claiming to protect their privacy.” Greer said it could specifically harm LGBTQ and other vulnerable young people online.
California’s nation leading effort comes as bipartisan momentum has been building in Congress for federal legislation creating stricter standards for how tech companies collect children’s data and attract minors on their platforms.
The Senate Commerce Committee this summer advanced two bills, the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA 2.0, with broad bipartisan support.
Newsom’s latest action also comes a day after he signed into law a social media transparency measure that has been criticized by the tech industry and may kick off legal challenges from industry associations.
— Updated at 4:15 p.m.