California Senate Bill 568 (the “Bill”), adopted on September 23, 2013, establishes expansive privacy rights for minors in the digital world. The Bill is divided [PDF] into two main parts. The first part prohibits certain products and services from directing advertising toward minors, who are defined as natural persons under the age of 18. The second, and more groundbreaking part of the Bill, is the establishment of a minor’s “right to be forgotten,” or erased from a given media outlet.

The first portion of the Bill limits the types of advertisements that can be directed to minors and puts certain procedures into place to make it less likely that minors will be targeted online. For example, some of the products and services that are expressly restricted in the language of the bill include: alcoholic beverages, firearms, and tickets or shares in a lottery game, among others.

The second portion, which allows a minor to erase information that they have posted to the internet, has four main components. First, it gives minors authority to remove or cause the removal of content they have posted. Second, it requires the media outlet to give notice to the minors about this authority. Third, the media outlet must provide instructions on how to carry out the removal of certain information, and lastly, the media outlet must make clear to the minor that the removal of the content does not guarantee it will be completely erased from the digital world.

Compare this to the EU Privacy Law, which was recently determined to not give a broad “right to be forgotten.” According to an opinion by the advocate general of the European Court of Justice, internet service providers are under no obligation to delete personal information. The advocate general stated that the existing law “does not entitle a person to restrict or terminate dissemination of personal data,” even if he believes it is contrary to his interests. Requiring search engines to suppress this type of legal information would go against principles of free expression and amount to censorship. The decision by the European Court of Justice did not specifically address the rights of minors, and it will be interesting to see if additional measures are taken to refine the EU Privacy Law to account for the ever-increasing presence of minors in the digital world.

California has set an expansive precedent for the privacy rights of minors. It will be interesting to see how other states react to this protective legislation and how practical this new “right” is when it becomes effective in 2015.

–John Craven

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