California Establishes Digital Privacy Rights Law for Minors: S.B. 568 Expands Online Privacy Protections Beyond Federal COPPA Rules and Extends Rights to All Children Under 18 Years of Age

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California Governor Brown is preparing to sign into law an unprecedented children’s online privacy bill (S.B. 568), which adds a new chapter to the State’s Business and Professions Code (BPC) to protect the online privacy of children and teenagers who are under 18 years of age and reside in the State of California. The bill establishes Chapter 22.1, entitled “Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World,” which will commence with Section 22580 in Division 8 of the BPC.

In response to minors’ increasing access to digital content and products available online, California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg introduced S.B. 568 “to increase protections for children as they navigate through social media and online.” Upon its initial passage in the Senate on April 29, 2013, Senator Steinberg’s press release described the purposes of the bill as follows: “S.B. 568 strengthens the privacy rights of minors in the digital world by allowing them to remove inappropriate content they themselves have posted, and also protects minors from harmful marketing and advertising.”

The Assembly approved S.B. 568 by a margin of 62-12 on August 26, 2013, and the Senate unanimously passed it on August 30, 2013. It was presented to the Governor for his signature on September 5, 2013. Governor Brown is expected to sign the bill before the expiration of the signing period on October 13, 2013.

The new law, which will become effective as of January 1, 2015, has two main provisions. First, Section 22580 seeks to protect children and teens under the age of 18 by prohibiting, with few exceptions, operators of Internet websites, online services, online applications and mobile apps from knowingly marketing and advertising to a minor a broad range of products specified in the law, including alcoholic beverages, firearms, ammunition, spray paint, tobacco products, fireworks, tanning services, dietary supplements, lottery tickets, tattoos, drug paraphernalia, and obscene matter, among other products and services. Secondly, Section 22581 will require such operators to notify minors of their rights to remove content or information they posted to the operator’s website, online service, online application and mobile apps, and honor their requests to remove such data, subject to specified conditions and exceptions.

For additional information regarding S.B. 568, please see our full-length client advisory entitled California Establishes Digital Privacy Rights Laws for Minors.

Conclusion

Operators of Internet websites, online services, online applications and/or mobile apps with registered users who are minors or who are engaged in marketing or advertising the “adult” content, services or products specified in the bill, whether through third-party advertisers or contextual advertising, should carefully review the provisions of the new law to ensure their compliance upon its effective date.

Additionally, given the influence that California privacy legislation often has in fostering similar federal policy proposals, coupled with the new law’s stated purpose in building upon existing federal COPPA rules to extend online privacy protections to teenage minors, the bill’s enactment may lead to further efforts among policymakers and privacy advocates in Washington, D.C., to call for nationwide privacy protections for all children under 18 years of age.