Diserio Martin O'Connor & Castiglioni LLP

Virtual Playground: New California Privacy Laws Aim to Make Websites Safer for Minors

December 23, 2014

On January 1, 2015 California’s new law on privacy, known as “Deletion of Minor’s Content Law,” will come into effect for all online service providers operational in the state of California whose site may be accessed by users who are under 18 years old.  If your website is specifically directed to minors or is used by minors, changes to your privacy policy and terms of service, among other things, may be necessary to be in compliance with this new law.

The new law has two main provisions.  The first is the known as the “right to delete” or “digital eraser” policy.  This portion of the law requires that a minor must have the ability to erase, request to erase, or anonymize any original content they post onto your website.  The law only applies to original content actually posted by the minor.  Examples of this content could be profile information such as names, addresses, photos and the like, and also includes comments, and reviews which are maintained by the website.  Websites may keep minor posted content when: 1) such information is required to preserved by law; 2) when the minor received compensation or other consideration for providing the content; or 3) when the minor is provided with accurate instructions on the website’s content removal process and fails to follow the instructions.

The second provision of the law relates to minor-directed advertising.  The law lists nineteen prohibited advertising categories: alcoholic beverages; firearms; ammunition; handgun safety certificates; spray paint; etching cream; tobacco, rolling paper, and any other instrument for smoking or ingesting tobacco or controlled substances; BB guns; UV tanning; dietary supplements containing ephedrine group alkaloids; lottery tickets; salvia divinorum; body branding; tattoos; drug paraphernalia; e-cigarettes; obscene material (as defined by §311 of the CA Penal Code; and a “less lethal weapon” (e.g. pellet guns, paintball guns).  The law states that website owners should prevent directed advertising to minors in these nineteen categories based on minor specific information such as: profile, online activity, and address.  The law further restricts website owners and associated third-parties from using, disclosing or compiling a minor user’s personal information with the actual knowledge that it will be used for marketing or advertising the nineteen restricted products.

For additional information, please contact Matthew C. Wagner, Chair of DMOC’s Intellectual Property Department, at 203-358-0800, MWagner@dmoc.com.