California 'eraser bill' lets teens remove digital skeletons
Starting in 2015, a new California law will require websites to provide a delete button for minors to remove posts or photos that they may later regret.
AP Photo/Andy Wong
California¬†teenagers, who post photographs of themselves wearing too little clothing or having had too much¬†to¬†drink, will have the legal right¬†to¬†erase¬†their online¬†indiscretions¬†under newly enacted first-in-the-nation legislation.
The so-called 'eraser bill,' which Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed into¬†law¬†on Monday, will require social media websites¬†to¬†allow¬†California¬†children under age 18¬†to¬†remove their own postings as of January 2015, even as top sites already allow users¬†to¬†delete their own posts.
The¬†law¬†forces companies¬†to¬†provide a way for minors¬†to¬†delete¬†digital¬†skeletons - rants, postings and pictures that could harm their reputations, their chances of getting into college, and their employment opportunities.
James Steyer, chief executive of¬†Common Sense Media, a San Francisco group that pushed for the measure, called it a milestone and "a really important step forward in the discussion of¬†kids¬†and teen privacy....
"Kids¬†and teens deserve the right¬†to¬†make mistakes without penalties for their entire lives," Steyer told Reuters. "This is the beginning of the reframing of the privacy issue when it comes¬†to¬†kids¬†and teens,¬†to¬†let them control their own information and correct their mistakes."
While mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter already allow users¬†to¬†delete posts, the¬†law¬†requires all social media sites¬†to¬†provide a delete button for minors.
Senate¬†leader¬†Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who wrote the bill, said it protected children "who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences.
"They deserve the right¬†to¬†remove this material that could haunt them for years¬†to¬†come," Steinberg said in a statement.
The¬†California¬†senate¬†had unanimously approved the measure, which the state assembly approved 62-12.
Emma Llanso, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group advocating internet freedom in Washington, D.C., praised the¬†law¬†for its good intentions, but said her organization opposes any age-based internet restrictions.
"This kind of bill could act as a disincentive¬†to¬†creating sites and services aimed at minors," she said, adding that her group fears that if other states adopt similar legislation, it could create a patchwork of laws that could prove difficult for technology companies¬†to¬†manage.
Steinberg said that a recent Kaplan study found that more than one out of four college-admissions officers check applicants' Facebook profiles and perform Google searches on candidates.
Steyer, the father of four children, including two teens, said he believes more work needs¬†to¬†be done¬†to¬†protect young people's online privacy. He hopes other states will follow¬†California's lead.
"Just because you post a semi-naked picture of yourself at age 15 doesn't mean it should haunt you for the rest of your life or prevent you from getting into college, getting a job or ruin your reputation with your peers," he said.¬†