Momentum for children’s privacy and safety continues to build in the US

An increasing number of State legislatures across the US have taken up the cause of privacy and safety by design for children, with a flurry of legislative action across the country, from Maryland to Hawaii.

The pioneering Californian Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC), sponsored by 5Rights and adopted with unanimous support from that State legislature in 2022, has inspired a wide range of bills. Mirror AADCs, supported by 5Rights and both federal and local civil society coalitions, have this year been introduced in Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Illinois, Vermont and Hawaii.

With a legal challenge to the California AADC ongoing and tech companies railing against the fundamentals of corporate due diligence, the hearings make for lively affairs.  

Minnesota State Representative Kristin Bahner (DFL), who introduced the Minnesota Age Appropriate Design Code Bill, has said: “We can build better, safer products by design. We can balance the interests of business and innovation with that of children, parents, and grandparents. We can do it in a way that does not allow companies to legalize their way out of meaningful change, to protect kids online.”

An ambition and testament that is shared by Delegate CT Wilson, who as part of the Maryland Kids Code hearing expressed his frustration with the opposition to the Code.

“We have people here that are trying to find a solution… you heard the confines of what we’re doing but you’re saying that the freedoms in this country are so great that we can’t protect our children from predation. We can’t protect them from bullying. We can’t protect them from people using their data to lure them to where they won’t stop looking on their phone.” In addition to those States that have taken up the AADC as a comprehensive and proven model to address the concerns for children’s safety and well-being online, more have taken up some of its principles and provisions, including Connecticut which last year included portions of the AADC in its updated Data Privacy Act.

The Federal Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), inspired also by the original UK AADC, continues its trajectory through the Washington legislature, while States and school districts across the country are also taking legal action against tech companies for harm against children.