California Passes Internet Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (ADCA)

California Passes Internet Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (ADCA)

Concern about the online safety of minors continues to grow. With the increased use of technology during the pandemic due to remote learning, among other factors, the risks of a child being exposed to inappropriate content, cyberbullying and online predators continue to increase. The federal government enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to help protect children under 13 by requiring parental consent for personal information, but it’s clear lawmakers in California no longer believe that is enough.

According to industry expert Leonard Navarro, Vice President of Nametag, “The biggest news in the identity and authentication space this week appears to be the passing of California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code. Act This means that organizations, especially websites and apps, will need to install some form of guardrail for users under 18.

Navarro clearly understands the importance of this since Nametag is dedicated to giving people control over the sharing of personal information. This helps people build more trusted relationships with websites.

New requirements and restrictions effective July 1, 2024

Drawing inspiration from the Children’s Code in the UK, the ADCA (also known as the California Design Code), the law aims to make websites more responsible for protecting minors from the dangers of the Internet. The law is very precise and complete on the companies concerned, what they are required to do and what they are prohibited from doing (JD Supra).

Business Definition:

  1. Generates $25 million or more per year,
  2. Buys, sells or shares the personal information of more than 50,000 consumers for commercial purposes,
  3. Receives 50% or more of its revenue from the sale of personal information.

Products and services covered:

    1. Site or online service wholly or partially intended for children,
    2. Commonly accessible to children,
    3. A product or service similar to one that children regularly access,
    4. Advertisements directed to children.

The full law defines what is and is not permitted for the businesses defined above. In summary, it aims to protect the personal data of minors and prevent them from falling prey to the websites they visit.

Some of the requirements include websites that must default to the highest privacy settings and notify minors when they are being monitored. “It would also prohibit the use of so-called dark patterns — essentially design tricks designed to direct users to a specific choice — that would encourage minors to disclose personal information that isn’t necessary to provide the service (CNBC) .

What will the Internet Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (ADCA) accomplish?

“These laws take away some of the bite that these companies are able to complete by essentially tracking and storing information about their underage users,” Navarro explained. “Additionally, for users over the age of 18, it is likely that people will need to take additional steps to verify their age. This is set up while [users are suffering] a lot of abuse, especially from video game companies that exploit the data provided by minors.

Additionally, the rules could reduce online activity designed to keep children glued to screens, which would improve mental health and reduce screen addiction. Increased privacy controls could prevent children from being contacted by strangers on messaging platforms. These measures may seem out of nowhere, but the reality is that the foundations for change were laid in 2021.

In 2021, Instagram and Facebook revealed information illustrating the harm that social media practices cause to children. Instagram’s algorithms sent out graphic images of teenage girls self-harming and promoted content about eating disorders.

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, testified before a Senate panel that the company “places its own profits on the health and safety of users, which is largely the result of the design of its algorithms that drive users to high engagement posts which in some cases can be more harmful. She gave the example of algorithms sending “young users from something relatively innocuous like healthy recipes to content promoting ‘anorexia in a short period of time’. Haugen noted during her testimony that she believes lawmakers need to step in to keep young users safe.

California has heard the cry and is setting the tone for what could be the future – a safer internet experience for kids. It is a proactive approach to protecting children rather than the current landscape of reaction to negative outcomes.

“The success of the California law should determine whether other states will follow suit as well. But as we have seen more and more in the media, big social media sites and gaming sites are already tripping up and getting fined for what they have already done and collected on minors,” said noted Navarro.

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