California Senate approves protections for minors on Internet

Despite opposition from Internet firms including Facebook and Google, the California Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would require social networking sites to remove identifying information about teens and younger children from their pages if their parents request it.

The measure by Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) would subject Internet firms to fines of $10,000 per offense if they fail, within 96 hours, to remove identifying information about minors whose parents demand it, and to take down information about adults at their own request.

“This bill is designed to protect individuals, including minors, from criminal acts, including identity theft, stalking, kidnapping and assault,” Corbett said on the Senate floor. She noted that it has strong support from law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.


The bill would require companies to remove minors’ information -- including addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and their mother’s maiden name -- when parents request it. The bill was sent to the Assembly with a 23-10 vote, with most opposition coming from Republicans including Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine.

Anderson cited complaints from the Internet firms that the requirements are unworkable because of the difficulty, compounded by the 96-hour limit, in verifying that a parent’s request is legitimate and whether the affected child lives in California.

“If a company tries in every way to do this, you still run the risk of losing ten grand, even with your best effort,” Anderson said. He and others suggested more time should be allowed to comply and the fines should not be so high.

A coalition that includes Internet firms Facebook, Google, Zynga and Tumblr also opposed SB 501 as a violation of the privacy and free speech rights of teenagers.

The bill “upsets teenage consumers’ expectation of privacy and 1st Amendment rights by allowing others to regulate their expression and content,” a letter from the coalition said. By allowing parents to remove phone numbers and maiden names, it restricts teens’ right “to communicate contact information with one another,” the group said.


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