California Gov. Jerry Brown has just handed teens in his state a fresh start.
Brown signed a law Monday that requires Internet companies to remove from public view photos and data posted by regretful minors. Of course there are significant loopholes: Websites don’t have to delete the data, just make it inaccessible. The files must belong to the poster making the request (jilted lover revenge photos will live on, it seems). Perhaps most troubling, only original posts are covered, so a video uploaded initially to YouTube that then goes viral remains viral. Sorry, Star Wars kid. On top of all that, the law won’t go into effect until 2015.
Those shortcomings aside, the state’s public officials seem to recognize the urgent problem: The most exhibitionist generation in American history is about to start applying for work.
“Kids so often self-reveal before they self-reflect,” said James Steyer, founder of San Francisco’s Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that advocated for the law. “Mistakes can stay with teens for life, and their digital footprint can follow them wherever they go.”
The bill, authored by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, pushes lawmakers deeper into the dicey debate over online privacy. As social media soars in popularity and Web companies cull more and more information about people’s lives, questions continue to be raised about what Internet firms should and should not be doing with the data.
California already allows certain people, such as victims of domestic violence, to get information struck from the online record. And a pioneering 2003 state law requires companies to let visitors to their websites know what information they’re collecting - and who they’re sharing it with.