California passes landmark bill to protect children’s digital well-being 

On August 30, the California Legislature passed a landmark bill requiring apps and websites to strengthen their safety protection and protocols for children using the online web.

California, home to some leading global tech companies, unanimously passed the AB 2273 (California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act) State Assembly with 75 votes, and the State Senate with 33.

AB-2273 is a bipartisan bill that requires all apps and websites that are “likely to be accessed” by kids to design their products with child safety in mind and to “prioritize the privacy, safety, and wellbeing of children” over profits.

Who Does California’s New Law Apply To?

The law applies to “businesses” as for-profit organizations that do business in California and meet any of three (3) criteria:

  • An annual gross revenue of $25+ million,
  • Buys, receives, sells or shares for commercial purposes of 50,000+ consumers, households, or devices,
  • Derives 50% or more of its annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information

How is California’s New Law Implemented?

  1. Requires companies to analyze & address the impact of their products on children
    The bill mandates businesses that sell online products to conduct an assessment of the effects those products have for users under 18, and must take proactive steps to address any harm caused to children as a result of their apps.
  2. Forces businesses to implement specific protections
    Apps and sites need to immediately and automatically place children’s accounts on the highest privacy setting available, and also be disabled from sweeping data on the exact location of children.
  3. Creates working group to enforce best safety practices & protocolsThe California Children’s Data Protection Working Group, a group of stakeholders including industry reps, academia and consumer advocacy groups, will set recommendations on how companies can best implement safety protection protocols.
  4. Fines companies that violate bill

How is California’s New Law Enforced?

Fines range from $2,500 per affected child following a negligent violation of the bill, up to $7,500 per affected child for intentional violations.

In a letter of opposition to the California legislature, the trade group coalition stated that “the bill contains a great deal of subjectivity, and should afford companies an opportunity to fix products found to be in violation, since the goal is to encourage and incentivize companies to take proactive steps to protect children online.”

The final version of the bill includes a 90-day grace period for companies found in violation.

The enforcement provisions offer a strong incentive for companies to develop and implement a robust Data Protection Impact Assessment and mitigation plan process; Companies that have achieved “substantial compliance” within a 90-day grace period have the ability to cure, without penalty.

What are the Next Steps for California Lawmakers?

Data minimization requirements, geolocation data collection prohibitions, use and sale, and ban on “dark pattern” bans that promote the submission of unnecessary personal data are just a few federal level debate topics that California’s new bill aims to address.

These are just some of the necessary steps to help relieve some of the burden on parents who would otherwise have to navigate too many unclear, unnecessary – privacy policies, site and app settings – in an attempt to better protect their children from online harms.

The next step is adding legislation that requires, and holds companies accountable for their safer, design choices. Earlier this year, a heated debate arose after lawmakers failed to advance separate measures to open tech platforms up to liability if/when design choices lead to addiction among users under 18.

The AB 2273 is the first child-centered design bill to ever exist in the U.S., and takes a novel approach in responding to parents’ very real concerns of children not being sufficiently protected on the world wide web.

The California Consumer Privacy Act recommends that businesses should be prepared for future rounds of rulemaking.

If you feel your child has been injured or treated unfairly due to someone else’s negligence or poor behavior, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time to discuss your personal matter.

Our dedicated personal injury and product liability attorneys have 40+ years of combined experience, providing top-notch legal representation for children across California. Our legal team provides passionate, proficient legal guidance, all while ensuring your child feels comfortable, and cared for during each step of the legal process.