California's children will get the legal right to order their embarrassing digital past to be hidden from public view. But the new laws won't end in total deletion of unwanted content – just that it be placed behind a digital veil.
Starting from 2015, any minor will have the right to ask internet companies to destroy embarrassing pictures or content they have uploaded to the web. The offending content does not have to be totally wiped from a company's servers, merely hidden from public view.
However, firms will not have to remove content posted or reposted by other people or remove this information from their servers. This means kids will be offered a safety net in case they accidentally (or willingly) share images of themselves to the world, but may not be able to take down the photos if they uploaded by other people.
The new measures are contained in strict new laws aimed at shielding youngsters from the harsh realities of the internet.
Firms will also be banned from "marketing or advertising specified types of products or services to a minor" and collecting a youngster's personal information for this purpose. The products internet firms will be banned from advertising to nippers include firearms, booze, cigarettes, obscene matter, sunbeds, spray paint and "etching cream capable of defacing property."
The new measures are tougher than federal laws, which require companies to be upfront about the data they collect and also allows parents to demand firms stop collecting information on their children.
Senate Bill 568 comes into force on January 1, 2015. The text reads:
"The bill [requires] the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user of the operator’s Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application, to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted on the operator’s Internet Web site, service, or application by the minor, unless the content or information was posted by a 3rd party."
The San Francisco Chronicle chatted to some local kids about the measures. Alicia Cabral, 17, said:
As a youth, you make a bunch of mistakes. If you put it on the Internet, it follows you everywhere.
Her friend, 15-year-old Diana Cortez, added that caution is still in order:
Even if you make sure not to post photos of yourself, you can't stop your friends from doing so. If you use drugs and there are pictures of you doing that and you apply for a job, you won't get hired.
Of course, the new laws don't actually add all that much to existing safeguards, because if any enterprising kid wants to delete information from a social media profile, they can just go ahead and do so. It's other people that can cause the most damage to young people's lives - and the new laws won't scare the trolls away. ®