A new bill in California would dramatically expand the existing federal minors privacy regime to California residents online.

Senator Nora Campos (D-27) introduced A.B. 319, which would add restrictions similar to the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) for anyone under the age of 18 to California’s existing Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA only applies to children under 13.

Among other provisions, A.B. 319 would require an operator of website or other online service “directed to minors” or “that has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information from a minor” to provide appropriate notice on its website about data collection from minors and what its does with the data. Parents would require specific notice and be given the chance “to refuse to permit the operator’s further use or maintenance in retrievable form, or future online collection, of personal information from the minor, and a means that is reasonable under the circumstances for the parent to obtain personal information collected from the minor.”

In its most recent rewrite of COPPA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) did not propose raising the age threshold from under 13 to under 18. As many commentators pointed out, COPPA requirements would be less effective for minors 13 or older – in fact, enforcement would likely be either overboard or impossible. It would likely require age verification of every single Internet user in order to verify the true identity (and thus age) of every user. Moreover, the constitutional concerns about free speech rights remain the same as they did when COPPA was first drafted.

Those concerns, combined with COPPA’s provisions preempting conflicting state laws, are what helped MRA and other organizations to get Maine to repeal their attempt to similarly apply COPPA-style restrictions to minors under 18 back in 2009-10. Another bill like A.B. 319, in New Jersey in 2011, faltered along similar lines.

MRA’s analysis: Three strikes, you’re out
A.B. 319 is unworkable, possibly unconstitutional, and would be preempted by federal law. While we do not expect this legislation to go far, MRA opposes A.B. 319.