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California is on track to adopt strict internet privacy rules for children

The California legislature is on track to pass tough online privacy rules for children this week, as the state once again overtakes the federal government in internet regulation.

Why is it important: Any rules set by California are sure to spur copycat laws in other states and could push Congress to act on similar national legislation.

What is happening: The proposal, AB2273, the California Age Appropriate Design Code, is set to pass the state Senate and Assembly this week and then go to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office for signing, Axios told sources according to the proposal.

  • Newsom has not publicly commented on the bill. He recently launched a new plan aimed at increasing access to mental health services for young people in California.

Details: California’s proposal resembles new rules passed last year in the UK that govern how tech companies can target children with push notifications, require messaging controls and provide other features meant to keep kids safe. minors online.

  • The bill, which provides for steep fines for non-compliance, puts the California attorney general in charge of enforcement. A tech industry win is an amendment that gives potential violators a 90-day “cure” period before any fines are imposed.

The California bill aims online services “likely to be consulted by children” under the age of 18.

  • Industry representatives lobbied unsuccessfully to lower this age.
  • The United States Children’s Online Privacy Act, COPPA, applies to sites specifically intended for children and protects those under the age of 13.

What they say : “While this bill has improved, we remain concerned about its unintended consequences in California and across the country,” Dylan Hoffman, executive director of TechNet in California, told Axios. TechNet represents technology companies like Amazon, Apple, eBay, Google, Meta and Snap.

  • “This is another example of why we need a federal privacy law that includes universal standards to protect children online instead of a patchwork of state laws that creates confusion and compliance complications for businesses,” Hoffman said.
  • “We worked with stakeholders, including industry representatives, throughout the legislative process and did our best to address their practical concerns without watering down the protections the bill would provide for young people,” Nichole Rocha, a former California legislature privacy officer who now serves as head of US affairs for the 5Rights Foundation, sponsor of AB 2273, told Axios.
  • An industry lobbyist familiar with the situation described the current text of the bill, which will likely be its final form, as not being perfect, but as an “applicable standard [companies] can start thinking.”

The other side: Opponents of the bill say a major feature of AB2273, age authentication via “age estimation of child users,” is too cumbersome and invasive for users.

  • “[AB2273] erect digital barriers on the Internet for everyone; drive some companies out of the industry altogether; expose everyone, including children, to greater privacy and security risks; deprive vulnerable users of access to sensitive information they need; create chilling effects that discourage critical and whistleblower content; reduce internet for California minors; and put California miners in permanent employment,” Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, wrote in a statement. August 22 forum.

By the numbers: Tech and other groups lobbied during the 2021-22 California legislative session on AB2273, according to state documents seen by Axios.

  • Amazon spent $211,124 lobbying the California legislature in the 6th quarter of the 2021-22 session, including AB2273. Sources familiar with lobbying around the bill say Axios Amazon is particularly concerned about the impact of AB2273, particularly its age component.
  • TechNet spent $458,428 lobbying in California in 2021-22, including on AB2273. Also for 2021-22 in California, including on AB2273, TikTok spent $37,500; the News Media Alliance spent $20,000; Snap spent $190,000; Google spent $47,000 and Twitter $16,000.

And after: The bill will be voted on in the state Senate on Monday and is expected to pass the Assembly soon after. If signed by Newsom, the law will come into effect on July 1, 2024.