The California state legislature is considering a bill that would require websites and apps to authenticate the age of every user before allowing them access, a move that lawmakers say is aimed at protecting children, but would in effect end online anonymity in the state.
The bill, AB2273, is known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, and has alarmed privacy advocates, who in addition to pointing out its threats to adult online anonymity, also highlight its potential to end casual browsing of the web.
Via the Register:
“First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone,” said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. “In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this.”
The bill, Goldman argues, will put an end to casual web browsing, forcing companies to collect personal information they don’t want to store and protect – and that consumers don’t want to provide – in order to authenticate the age of visitors. And since age authentication generally requires identity details, that threatens the ability to use the internet anonymously.
Furthermore, he contends that the scope of the bill reaches beyond children’s privacy and implicates consumer protection and content moderation. He thus considers the bill “a trojan horse for comprehensive regulation of Internet services” and would turn the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) into a general internet regulation agency.
It is not the first time that an initiative purportedly aimed at protecting children online has faced allegations of overreach and privacy violations. Last year, a plan by Apple to proactively scan iPhone and iPad photos to hunt down images of child sexual abuse was stalled after backlash from privacy advocates who pointed out that the technology would allow Apple to scan the photos of its users at any time, for any reason.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election. Follow him on Twitter @LibertarianBlue.