back to article California lawmakers approve online privacy law for kids. Which may turn websites into identity checkpoints

California lawmakers have approved a major online safety bill to protect children – and critics worry the legislation will turn websites into identity checkpoints. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act was passed by the State Senate on Monday by a vote of 33-0, and was previously approved by the State Assembly. To be …

  1. Kev99 Silver badge

    Personally, if this legislation will prevent even 1% of the BS web-site try to dish out to users because of algorithm, cookies, etc., then it's a winner.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Whatever.

    As a Californian, and a parent and grandparent, I feel the need to point out that the real issue is parents allowing kids unsupervised access to the ugly underbelly of the world's largest city, called "The Internet".

    Buffy Wicks(D) and Jordan Cunningham(R).are clearly unfit parents if they think the State should have a need to take on this vital roll in their children's development.

    Remember back when parents parented? Are YOU a fit parent, Governor Gavin Newsom?

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: Whatever.

      > The bill says online businesses must: "Estimate the age of child users with a reasonable level of certainty appropriate to the risks that arise from the data management practices of the business or apply the privacy and data protections afforded to children to all consumers."

      You are using emotive arguments *against* a bill that asks for increased privacy and data protection?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Whatever.

        Are you hard of thinking?

        The bill ALLOWS the collection of such data, by law! It makes things worse, not better.

        It is NOT the job of the State, nor of businesses, to decide what my kids can and can not access. It is MY job. Period. Only I am in the position to decide the maturity level of my kids.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Whatever.

          > The bill ALLOWS the collection of such data, by law! It makes things worse, not better.

          You mean the collection that is already going on? How does this make that any worse?

          So now you are arguing against *all* age restrictions? Where are stopping that line of thinking?

          And you are claiming that because *you* are the superhumanly-perfect parent there must be no protections to aid the offspring of any less parents with less judgement than you? Or less than your godlike ability to ensure that you children never access anything you have not sanctioned? Nah, screw the rest of them, why should you give a shit about those mugs?

          You claim to be the uber-computer geek, and you can not see a way around this, to give your own children access to everything you want them to have?

          1. Falmari Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Whatever.

            @that one in the corner "You claim to be the uber-computer geek, and you can not see a way around this, to give your own children access to everything you want them to have?"

            Access to the internet is not something that I want my children to have. I am not saying I am against it, just it is not a want. As for anyone else's children if their parents want access then they should be prepared to police their child's access rather than expect me and others to make sacrifices for them.

            After all as the Information Commissioner’s foreword from the UK codes linked in the article states "One in five UK internet users are children, but they are using an internet that was not designed for them.". If was not designed for children then keep them off it and leave the internet to the users it was designed for!

            BTW the UK code is mainly about children's data privacy not access which they already have. The easy way to solve that problem would have been to apply the privacy requirements to everyone not just children. Are adults second class citizens not deserving the same level of privacy as children?

            1. NeilPost Silver badge

              Re: Whatever.

              Well the internet was designed for US ARPA but has evolved over the years. Yours is a specious argument.

              Roads aren’t ‘designed for children’ either but plenty directly or indirectly use them, mostly safely. If school is on road, then put up appropriate signage and reduce speed limit. Same broad principle.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Whatever.

                "Well the internet was designed for US ARPA"

                Nope. It was designed primarily for networking researchers to research networking, with a side order of linking underutilized large computers together in an effort to share resources.

            2. that one in the corner Silver badge

              Re: Whatever.

              > Access to the internet is not something that I want my children to have. I am not saying I am against it, just it is not a want.

              Absolutely fine, in which case this whole discussion is pretty much moot for you.

              > The easy way to solve that problem would have been to apply the privacy requirements to everyone not just children. Are adults second class citizens not deserving the same level of privacy as children?

              Which, as I've been trying to point out, is exactly what the Californian bill says!

              The whole age restriction thing is for those sites which can't manage to be that civilised.

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Whatever.

            No, what I am saying is that the government has no place deciding what my kids can and can't view or read. It's not in their mandate. That is my job, by definition.

            However, if they want to make a list that people like you can utilize to keep your kids away from "bad internet sites", that's fine. They can recommend away. But don't mandate it for everybody. This is not a one-size fits all thing.

            Unless you can come up with such a list that everybody agrees on, of course ...

            1. Horst U Rodeinon
              Linux

              Re: Whatever.

              "This is not a one-size fits all thing."

              Obviously, you aren't a bureaucrat.

              Anyway, this discussion is pointless because "the internet" is only the transport layer. What everyone is so worked up about is The World Wide Web.

              Pretty lame bunch of opinionated geeks we have here if they can't get that right.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Whatever.

              "No, what I am saying is that the government has no place deciding what my kids can and can't view or read. It's not in their mandate. That is my job, by definition."

              That's a good and reasonable point. At the other end of the scale though, is porn magazines. "Hidden" on the top shelf, often in a plastic wrapper showing only the title, and the shop keeper being under a legal obligation to not sell them to underage kids. And to request ID from anyone they are not sure about. This seems to be a government restriction on what your kids are allowed to view and read.

              Clearly there are situations where what you describe IS in their mandate. So the argument now isn't whether government CAN do this. It's by what degree are they allowed to do this. And that's a problem for society. Laws need to evolve to meet the new technology, just as they did when the printing press and the photocopier were invented. We oldies have to accept that the world is changing. For better or worse. We can fight the "worse" and support the "better", but we can't all agree on which is the better and which is the worse.

        2. NeilPost Silver badge

          Re: Whatever.

          Do you have the competency for that. Are you able to demonstrate it in every non-internet thing they do?? Are you able to stop them riding their bikes badly or trying to buy alcohol with a cake age verification ID??

          The legislation does not mandate an at scale State data collection, it’s a sensible loose age challenge to enable extra levels of protection baked into the website design. If children use this, don’t paedo harvest their info (which is already a long in CCPA/GDPR anyway).

          Works reasonably well in the UK, but is easy go circumvent and without intrusive - like actual age verification- further measures is as good as you are going to get.

          1. John69

            Re: Whatever.

            Does it "work" in the UK? I have not proved my age to anyone, and use the internets a bit.

            1. that one in the corner Silver badge

              Re: Whatever.

              It works to the extent that, of you are not being asked to age verify, then you have the assumption that the site is avoiding the sort of privacy invasion that is illegal to apply to a child.

              If you find the site isn't behaving, it can be reported (then we get into how effective reporting is, but that is another discussion).

      2. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: Whatever.

        @that one in the corner ”You are using emotive arguments *against* a bill that asks for increased privacy and data protection?”

        That is not what the bill is actually asking for. It is asks for increased privacy and data protection for a subset of internet users, children. There are 2 ways for sites to achieve this.

        a) Give every visitor the same increased privacy and data protection.

        b) Verify the age of the visitor and only apply the increased privacy and data protection to children.

        Now (a) would be great but never going to happen, as long as it is legal to collect data on adults the Googles Facebooks etc will collect it. So, option (b) it will be, which means adult’s privacy will decrease.

        Because the only way to verify age with a reasonable level of certainty will involve an ID check, a face scan to estimate age* is not going to cut it. Which will have to happen every time you visit a site. You think data collection is bad now. See how bad it is going to be when every site knows who visits it. No need for ad ids to track adults on the internet. Adults will now be announcing who they are as they visit a site.

        *The age verification for young adults to prove they are over 18 (drinking age) in the UK requires photo ID say driving license. If they have not got that they can apply for photo ID card between the ages of 18 and 25. They are allowing an 8-year margin to gauge age.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Whatever.

          > It is asks for increased privacy and data protection for a subset of internet users, children

          Ah, that is clearly where I've been missing the subtlety.

          The UK has had the presumption that children's privacy is protected well before the Internet came about.

          You are telling me that the US doesn't have that blanket protection for its children, which I'd been assuming was a constant in civilised societies. My mistake.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Whatever.

          "a face scan to estimate age* is not going to cut it."

          The data fetishists claim to know huge amounts of data about individuals, shopping and spending habits, friends, and birthdays. In many cases, people will have had accounts with those organisations for long enough that the very age of the account itself proves the account holder must be over 18 by now. And, shockingly, it seems this law merely states that companies providing web service should "estimate" the age of the user. And since most average users have accounts with Facebook, Google, Twitter et al, then using the "Sign in with..." option should be enough to "prove" age without the site you are signing into ever knowing anything more about you than what is passed to them by the "Sign in with..." partner.

          Obviously that can cause issue for those of us who don't accounts with Facebook and the like :-)

          1. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: Whatever.

            @John Brown (no body) "And, shockingly, it seems this law merely states that companies providing web service should "estimate" the age of the user."

            Estimate, but to what level of certainty? This the clause below.

            "(5) Estimate the age of child users with a reasonable level of certainty appropriate to the risks that arise from the data management practices of the business or apply the privacy and data protections afforded to children to all consumers."

            It is so open to interpretation as there is no definition of reasonable level of certainty. So John what do you think is a reasonable level of certainty? What ever you say others will have a different answer. But an ID check will pass everyone's reasonable level of certainty.

            BTW I have no of those accounts to sign in with. :)

            1. nijam Silver badge

              Re: Whatever.

              > It is so open to interpretation as there is no definition of reasonable level of certainty.

              Because it was drafted by lawyers, primarily to provide work for lawyers. Like most legislation nowadays. Surely this is not news?

    2. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: Whatever.

      He probably is, but rather a lot of parents are in no way responsible, and I suggest you fit that description as your world seems dominated by dogwhistles rather than reality.

      Presumably you believe smoking and DUI should be encouraged, seatbelts banned and so. Correct? If not your comments are pure hypocrisy, amongst other things.

      1. ChoHag Bronze badge

        Re: Whatever.

        Actually I get extremely upset with my car urgently insisting that the shopping I've dumped on the passenger seat put its seatbelt on. It's rather distracting considering that it doesn't have its own arms with which to do so and requires both of mine.

        Laws attempting to protect me from myself can and do go too far.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Whatever.

          You aren't even good at sarcasm, let alone empathy

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    I feel a second childhood coming on

    "It restricts data collection, requires privacy settings to be maximized by default, and forbids efforts to encourage kids to roll those settings back, among other things."

    And to get those benefits, all I have to do is not be an adult?

    I've been accused of that all my life. Now I can embrace it.

    1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: I feel a second childhood coming on

      I came to quote the same sentence and ask what prevents the CA legislators to actually mandate this for all, obviating any need for age verification.

      Yes, yes, I know GOOG, FB, et al. are in CA, no need to shout... Mind you, they won't like age verification very much, either.

      In any case - upvoted.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I feel a second childhood coming on

        "Yes, yes, I know GOOG, FB, et al. are in CA, no need to shout... Mind you, they won't like age verification very much, either."

        In the case of people with actual accounts on Google, Facebook et al, they already know everything about you. They don't need to "verify" ages. They already have many multiples of data points that can prove age, above and beyond you providing any specific documents. They probably have much the same for non-account holders in the "shadow profiles" too.

  4. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Won't somebody think of the adults?

    So, this bill would cause mandatory age checks (and look up to see how well that idea is received) would it?

    This means that we are all agreed that no company with a website is capable of applying the part where it says "or apply the privacy and data protections afforded to children to all consumers"?

    1. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

      "and look up to see how well that idea is received" The religious right you mean, who are at best anarchists, at worst fascists.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

        Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that is skeptical of all justifications for authority and seeks to abolish the institutions they claim maintain unnecessary coercion and hierarchy, typically including, though not necessarily limited to, the state[1] and capitalism.

        Please don't sully the good name of anarchists by relating them to the religious right.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

          Tell the religious right not me.

      2. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

        I see I've upset the religious right. LOL.

      3. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

        You think that the comments above the one you're replying to are written by anarchists and/or the religious right?

        Yikes.

        Clearly I'm not impressed by the arguments, but that is one hell of a leap you are making!

    2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

      And, of course, by far the largest company in the age verification business is... wait for it... Pornhub!

      This is a fake think-of-the-children bill, enabling the pornographers around the world to gather all the traffic data not only for every adult but for every child as well. Just think of the opportunity... "Congratulations on your 18th birthday. Today you are an adult at last! To celebrate, have a month's free access to all our porn sites. And as we know you have been looking at tourist information about Yosemite, here is a voucher for a free bottle of tequila at our partner Adult Titty-Bar of Yosemite! Have a great adult life!!"

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

        FWIW, I could actually imagine that as being one of the unintended consequences of US privacy protection laws once they've been attacked and shredded in court etc.

        Meanwhile, GDPR across the EU, and currently still operating in the UK, doesn't allow for that sort of cross-purpose use of data and/or sharing with "partners", with some possibly quite hefty fines is caught doing so.

  5. SUDO-SU

    Really, there should be checks, but idk why ISPs aren't the place for it. When you have an account, you should be able to associate account levels and have decent parental controls for content filtering, web traffic reports, Mac filtering. Make it opt in for adult content. Really think about what children have access to, and the crap tools parents have to manage access.

    Of course phones should also build that in much better, but I don't think it's sunk in yet.

    It would be the best option in my opinion, because there isn't enough tech literacy in parents to have it be opt out.

    Heck, web reports would be enough for most.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "the crap tools parents have to manage access."

      Excuse me? When my daughter was growing up, her computer was in the common living area. And I ran her ISP. The tools were there back then, and they still exist. In fact, she's using them for her own kid.

      1. john.w

        Trust and Verify

        I just told my kids I could see every website they visited and they believed me so no need to even set up the logging.

      2. that one in the corner Silver badge

        "And I ran her ISP"

        And you are volunteering to help all the non-tech-capable patents to run their childrens' ISP?

        Nope, once again, it'll all be about how the Gummint aint got the right to tell you what to do and anyone without your skills ate just irrelevant.

        Helping protect other people's children? Damn Commies!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "And I ran her ISP"

          "And you are volunteering to help all the non-tech-capable patents to run their childrens' ISP?"

          I hear this a lot. Why are there so many "tech illiterate parents? What were they being taught by their parents and schools? Computers and the internet have been around for long enough now that a large majority of parents of under 18s grew up with internet access themselves.

  6. steelpillow Silver badge
    Trollface

    ID checkpoints

    Most websites already are Google ID checkpoints.

    At least California would be less likely to sell me to the advertisers.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: ID checkpoints

      At least California would be less likely to sell me to the advertisers.

      Err... who do you think is the biggest player providing age verification on the internet? Pornhub

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: ID checkpoints

        Hi downvoters... I could be wrong but if so please let me know. As I understand it, AgeId is the market leading age verification service. Is that not the case?

        AgeId is part of PornHub/YouPorn/RedTube/MindGeek.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: ID checkpoints

          How about because you are repeating "Pornhub" instead of "AgeId" and, presumably, trying to make some clever statement.

          We all *know* that porn sites are major clients of age verification services, that isn't anything startling or new.

          Many here may know that PornHub et al are the largest in that sector (or not - I'll take your word for it, never felt the need to look into their numbers).

          So the largest client of a service provider owns that provider - quite sensible, if it is cheaper than paying monthly.

          So, what was your point supposed to be? That PornHub know how to run a business?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: ID checkpoints

            "So, what was your point supposed to be? That PornHub know how to run a business?"

            I suspect his point is related to "data sharing" with the company hierarchy of associated businesses. Just as Google Alphabet, Facebook etc do when they share account details and other data with other services and companies they own and which people often get outraged about too.

          2. nijam Silver badge

            Re: ID checkpoints

            > ... porn sites are major clients of age verification services, that isn't anything startling or new.

            Probably is to the legislators who drafted the proposal.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a weird inverse of the UKs obsession

    with websites having to verify users are adults. Maybe California needs Nadine ?

  8. LybsterRoy Silver badge

    I've read through the comments and no one has mentioned VPNs I wonder why?

    Tech savvy kids should be able to run a free VPN and go to their favourite site from an address in Germany, France, Holland etc or do the proposed Californian restrictions apply there as well, or maybe they're baked into the hardware?

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Depends on the wording of the bill. If it's similar to the EU's GDPR, then it will apply to any service that can be accessed by an individual who is legally resident in the state (and therefore subject to any privacy laws).

      I believe that GDPR is worded in such a way that the apparent location of the EU citizen is also irrelevant - they are protected by it by virtue of being an EU citizen and nothing more.

      1. john.w

        How do EU citizens obtain these protections if their location is irrelevant. If on holiday in the USA does GDPR still apply to their online activity? The EU does seem to like to get its tentacles everywhere.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          The EU does seem to like to get its tentacles everywhere.

          Yes, they do want to try and protect their citizens wherever they may be. Funmy that.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "How do EU citizens obtain these protections if their location is irrelevant. If on holiday in the USA does GDPR still apply to their online activity?

          Actually, yes. It's probably harder to enforce, prove or even claim jurisdiction if the user just visits some random non-EU website while not in the EU, but if an EU citizen logs into Facebook with a known EU based account, even while accessing it from inside the USA on holiday, the protections should still apply, Facebook know they should apply and, if it came to it, could be brought to account through their EU office by EU prosecutors;

          "The EU does seem to like to get its tentacles everywhere."

          Yes, the EU is becoming more and more like the USA in that respect. There's a current case of death by dangerous driving starting up in the UK at the moment. A USAF "employee" killed a local in a car crash. The USAF is trying to claim jurisdiction based on "visiting forces" agreements, the specifics being "on or in the course of duty". Except the woman was driving home from the airbase at the time, so although IANAL, it seems she was neither on duty nor performing her duties, ergo it's a UK legal matter, but the USAF want to kick up stink about it. I suspect after the Anne Sacoolas incident, the UK will want make sure this time there's no chance of fleeing the country.

  9. Cederic Silver badge

    ulterior motives

    This is nothing to do with children.

    You protect children by restricting their actions and activities - hence the age laws on driving, drinking, starring in films of a certain nature.

    You don't protect children by imposing controls over every adult, whether they're near a child or not, irrespective of what they're doing. That has another sinister purpose.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: ulterior motives

      "That has another sinister purpose"

      Or maybe (more likely) it's just a piece of well intentioned ill thought out knee jerk legislation. Never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

      However it's worth considering the relevance of this (the 'foreign enemy' being assumed to be the global community of web content providers): "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. [...] The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home..If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." [President James Madison (1751-1863)]

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: ulterior motives

        "Or maybe (more likely) it's just a piece of well intentioned ill thought out knee jerk legislation in an election year."

        FTFY.

        And yes, of course it is. And it needs to be stomped on before it becomes a law ... but I'm fairly certain that idiot Gavin is going to sign it. Unless Moonbeam calls him up and makes him see sense ...

      2. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: ulterior motives

        Enough people highlight the flaws in legislation like this that the people pushing it through are clearly aware that it's not trying to address the stated issue, because they know the legislation will both fail to achieve its alleged goals, and will at the same time cause substantial harms to others.

        Pandering to the ignorant for personal advancement comes under malice.

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: ulterior motives

          "Enough people highlight the flaws in legislation like this that the people pushing it through are clearly aware"

          Not necessarily ulterior motives. That would would likely be the case if we were dealing with objective folks. But unfortunately, those who frame legislation (almost everywhere) believe they're members of a specially enlightened and informed elite, so they disregard the opinions of those who are not fellow members of it. We just have to examine the results of the recent UK govt. consultation on amending data protection legislation to see this in action. In respect of several issues with far reaching potentially hazardous consequences, the final policy document states that despite a high proportion of dissenting submissions to the consultation, it has been decided to do what was originally intended.

    2. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: ulterior motives

      > imposing controls over every adult

      This is reaching quite glorious levels of paranoia!

      Imposing *what* controls on every adult?

      The article puts it quite clearly that the desire (however wildly optimistic that may be) is to aim for protecting your privacy, as adults, by applying by default the protections that children should always be afforded.

      Sorry, what am I saying?

      Clearly, you all want to protect your rights to be tracked, your rights to give up all your privacy and your deeply held rights to have sites use every trick and engagement mechanism that prolongs use.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Age Verification? Just another business opportunity!

    www.MakeYourAge50.com

    .....sign up now, and our site will pass through all your browsing AS THOUGH YOU ARE 50 YEARS OLD!!

    .....not only that, but every time you sign in, you get a different identity....so no one on the internet knows who you really are!!!

    .....What's not to like? Only a few dollars a month.....

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Age Verification? Just another business opportunity!

      ...and yet, in places where this is already in place, sites like that don't actually exists. There are VPNs for those that care enough to use them, but nothing quite like what you describe.

      And FWIW, the can keeps getting kicked further down the road in the UK. AFAIK, porn sites generally just have a landing page where you are asked to click "Leave" or "I am over 18" buttons.

      Youtube, on the other hand, are very puritanical IME. The slightest hint of a nipple show and the video is put on the naughty step with a "You must sign in to view this content" gateway. But they seem a lot less concerned about kids seeing "gun porn" and actual violence, which seems to appear with alarming frequency under certain apparently innocent search terms.

  11. prh99

    It's going to hit the same wall COPPA hit in it's original incarnation, which tried to require age verification for a wide array of content. One of the reasons it got struck down is cause it imposed a significant burden on adults access to perfectly legal material.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do want to point out this law is likely to be very unconstitutional seeing it goes against Reno v. ACLU and likely to be taken down in court and the law does not come fully into force until 2024.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1st January 1960

    This is my “official” Internet birthday.

    It bears no relationship to my real birthday however.

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    How is this going to stop Brad putting in Dad's details into the website?

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