Meta, Google and friends sue to block children’s privacy law • The Register

An internet trade association whose membership includes Amazon, Google, Meta, TikTok and Twitter has sued the state of California to block a recently signed law aimed at protecting children online by requiring websites to indicate the age of all users check over.

The legal challenge, filed in federal court on Wednesday, alleges that the state’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (AB 2273) violates the First Amendment and existing federal statutes by controlling online speech and “obliging online service providers.” , to act as roving internet censors job of the state [PDF].”

It also conflicts with the existing federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and violates the Fourth Amendment by forcing websites to disclose private, internal communications, the lawsuit says.

NetChoice, the industry group suing the state over the new law, argues that AB 2273 actually does more harm than good to children’s privacy by forcing service providers to determine which users are under the age of 18.

“By giving up the First Amendment and forcing all websites to track and store information about children and adults, California risks shutting down the Internet and jeopardizing the digital safety of all Americans, especially children,” NetChoice VP and General Counsel Carl Szabo said in a statement.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2273 into law in September. It is scheduled to take effect in 2024 and applies to any “business that offers an online service, product, or feature that is accessible to children.” And by “children” we mean anyone under the age of 18.

Before offering their services or products to minors, companies must assess whether such offers could harm minors or use features to increase children’s time on the website, such as B. Offering rewards for longer visits.

What about vaguely malicious services?

The state’s definition of “damage” is too vague, according to the court documents.

“A company might be expected to document the risks that, for example, photos and videos showing the global impact of climate change, the war in Ukraine, school shootings or atrocities in Syria could frighten minors; or that a content recommendation for the next episode of an animated TV series could ‘harm’ a minor who is having trouble concentrating on homework or getting more exercise,” the lawsuit states.

However, it is the mandatory part of the legislation on age verification that has been the most troubling aspect for companies and privacy groups since the bill was proposed.

AB 2273 requires regulated entities to “estimate the age of users of children with a reasonable level of confidence commensurate with the risks arising from the entity’s data management practices, or to apply children’s privacy and data protection to all consumers” .

According to the lawsuit, “retirement security is not realistic.” And there are workarounds for age verification technologies that present their own data security and privacy issues.

“Any method that involves filing official documents increases the risk that those documents could be stolen or leaked,” the court documents argue. “More invasive age verification methods — such as artificial intelligence, facial analysis, or facial recognition technologies — are far from foolproof and raise their own concerns of transparency, security, and privacy.”

NetChoice is a plaintiff in similar litigation in Florida and Texas challenging social media laws on First Amendment grounds.

At the federal level, laws that also aim to protect children’s online safety and privacy are likely to face similar legal challenges if enacted into law.

In a letter sent to US Senate leaders late last month, more than 90 organizations called on lawmakers to end the proposed Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which they warned would encourage service providers to collect more data on children, restrict access to sex education and resources for LGBTQ+ youth and allow parents to spy on their teens.

In the last few weeks of the Lame Duck Congress, advocates and lawmakers have proposed including the children’s privacy proposal in the year-end defense or spending bill to ensure it goes through ®. Meta, Google and friends sue to block children’s privacy law • The Register

Rick Schindler

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