Thanks to a new state law enacted to protect minors from the modern follies of youth, minors in California can ring in the New Year by permanently deleting their regrettable online posts. This so-called “Online Eraser Law” – signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 23, 2013 – will take effect on January 1, 2015.
The “Online Eraser Law” provides protections to minors, defined as California residents under age 18, including affording minors the right to “erase” content or information they post online. The new law imposes specific obligations on operators of Internet websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications that are either directed to minors or with respect to which the operators have actual knowledge that a minor who is a registered user of the website or application is using. Such operators specifically will be required to permit minors to remove, or request and obtain removal of, such content or information; provide notice to minors of their rights to do so; provide clear instructions to minors about how to exercise these rights; and notify minors that removal of such content or information does not ensure complete removal.
This “Online Eraser Law” is not likely to be a foolproof method of achieving the goal of protecting minors from themselves. While it provides a means to remove content or information they personally posted, it does not apply to content or information posted or shared by others.
This law also contains protections for minors from certain marketing practices, including protecting them from being targeted by marketing of an enumerated list of products and services, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, firearms, tattoos, and other things deemed inappropriate for minors.
Although the law is not targeted specifically to employers, its seemingly broad application may have a far-reaching impact. Employers therefore need to determine whether they fall within the scope of the law and, for those who do, must ensure policies and practices are in place to comply with its requirements and constraints. A thorough review of online privacy policies and procedures is recommended.