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New age-appropriate site design code awaits signature of California governor

Following in the footsteps of UK legislators, pols in the U.S. state of California have unanimously approved a bill that would require many businesses online to consider how children may consume their content, and adds to the state’s data privacy rules.

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Right now, it is known as Assembly Bill 2273.

Depending on how one looks at it, children barge through online content with little thought about what they will encounter, or children are deluged in a never-ending current of products in search of revenue.

Either way, this legislation and other bills like it want to slow some transactions down and put material likely to be consumed by a child in a more protective context. Where necessary, businesses would also have to give children an option to make informed decisions about what they do next.

The bill would apply to providers of content or services which are likely to be accessed by children online.

First and foremost, the Design Code would require these providers to make their highest level of privacy protection their site’s default.

And everything typically linked to from the very last pixels at the bottom a web page – privacy policies, service terms and other boilerplate – would have to be more prominent and written in language suitable for the youngest expected visitor.

‘Dark patterns,’ the insidious ways of ushering visitors along a path to a revenue-generating action, would be banned. In this case, a dark pattern might lead children to give up personally identifying information.

Where a child’s information is gathered, the law would prevent it from being used for any purpose other than the one that, presumably, is declared clearly.

Civil penalties under the Act could reach $7,500 per affected child.

The data protection rules are intended to complement existing legislation passed in 2018 that requires age verification for specified products and services.

California’s code takes much from the United Kingdom‘s children’s code, a 15-standard reflection of how lawmakers feel the online experience should be for children. It takes effect July 1, 2024.

The UK document is broader, however, referring to connected toys and devices that involve online services. Read More

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