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California Law Lets Minors Erase Ill-Advised Online Posts

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California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law last month that allows minors to delete Web posts they may regret later. The law that improves data privacy and security allows young people to ask social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter to remove or hide information or photos they previously shared on the Internet, the Los Angeles Times reported. California is the first state to pass approve such legislation to improve data privacy and security.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the measure, which was being called the “eraser button” bill, is “a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences.” He added minors should be allowed to remove information online that could potentially affect their futures and careers.

Websites also have to offer clear instructions on how to remove old posts and inform users when they register for a site that they will be able to delete information if they wish.

Websites have until 2015 to comply with the law.

Questions and Exceptions

However, the law does not dictate specifically what content a minor can have removed from websites, PC World reported. It also does not include information on how a website would be punished if it did not remove the requested information in a timely manner.

Many popular social networking sites like Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are based in California, and will have to comply with the new law fairly quickly.

There are other limitations to the law. While minors will be able to take down a silly photo they posted on Facebook a year ago, if a friend tagged them in an equally embarrassing picture, there may be nothing they can do about it. The friend would have to remove the photo, making some of the content filtering out of the tagged person’s control, PC World reported.

Adults, too, seem to be out of luck, as the law does not include a provision allowing adults to take down embarrassing posts from their pasts.

Opposition

Some have voiced opposition to the new law. The Center for Democracy & Technology, a nonprofit that promotes Internet freedom and accessibility, said while the bill had good intentions, the new law could confuse website operators.

“If the sites are unclear whether they are covered under the scope of the bill, the response could be to bar minors from the sites entirely,” said Emma Llanso, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology, according to the Times.

Opponents also say it would force web developers to create state-specific Internet privacy laws, developing a “patchwork of policies,” Southern California Public Radio reported.

Additional Provisions of the New Law

Under current state and federal law, websites were already required to inform users the information they share online will be collected. But the new law in California also prohibits websites from selling identifying information about minors to third parties and bans advertisers from marketing certain products to young consumers. These products include spray paint, tobacco, firearms, tattoos and lottery tickets, PC World reported.

“[T]his bill will help keep minors from being bombarded with advertisements for harmful products that are illegal for them to use, like alcohol, tobacco and guns,” Sen. Steinberg said in a statement. “I thank Gov. Brown for recognizing that these common sense protections will help our children as they navigate the online world.”

This post originally appeared on IDentity Theft 911.

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