California Governor Signs Kids Online Safety Act Into Law

The sweeping new law requires online companies to prioritize the best interests of children.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
2 min read
California Governor Gavin Newsom gettyimages-1421661720

California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Jerod Harris/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed the California Age Appropriate Design Code Act into law, providing sweeping online protections for children under 18. 

The bipartisan legislation prohibits companies from leading children to provide their personal information online; using children's personal information; collecting, selling or retaining children's geolocation details; and profiling children. Before offering new online services that are likely to be accessed by kids, businesses will also be required to complete a data protection impact assessment to be provided to the attorney general.

Newsom called it "aggressive action ... to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids."

A Children's Data Protection Working Group will also be established, and is set to report to the legislature by January 2024 on how best to implement the new law, which goes into effect that year.

The bill was passed unanimously by the California Senate at the end of August. Companies that violate the new rules could face fines of up to $7,500 per affected child.

Assembly member Buffy Wicks, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said it's about ensuring that "Silicon Valley's most powerful companies redesign their products in children's best interest."

"We know that certain big tech social media companies design their products to addict kids, and a significant number of those kids suffer serious harm as a result," assembly member and Republican co-sponsor Jordan Cunningham said in a statement Thursday. "Protecting kids online is not only common sense, it will save lives."

Critics of the legislation have reportedly argued that the proposed rules are too wide and vague. "The requirement that companies consider the 'best interests' of children is incredibly difficult to interpret," the California Chamber of Commerce and industry association TechNet said in a letter to legislators in April, according to The New York Times.