Protections for children online introduced in California

Bipartisan Bill based on UK privacy law announced by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Jordan Cunningham

16 February 2022

In a move to give Californian children the safety and privacy they deserve in the digital world, today sees California State Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (Dem) and Jordan Cunningham (Rep) introduce the California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill.

Strengthening California’s nation-leading protections in this area, the bill would ensure tech companies design their products and services putting children’s best interests front and centre over profit.

The bill is modelled on the UK’s ground-breaking Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC), that offers all young people under the age of 18 a data protection regime that determines the features and impact of the digital services they are using.

The introduction of the Code has already seen radical changes to products and services ‘likely to be accessed’ by children, including:

  • TikTok and Instagram have disabled direct messages between children and adults they do not follow
  • The Google Play Store now prevents under 18s from viewing and downloading apps rated as adult-only
  • YouTube have turned off autoplay for under 18s and break and bedtime reminders are turned on by default
  • Google have made SafeSearch the default browsing mode for all under 18s

The California Code is sponsored by children’s digital rights charity 5Rights Foundation, whose Chair Baroness Beeban Kidron is the architect of the UK Code.

Baroness Beeban Kidron, Crossbench Peer in the UK House of Lords and 5Rights Chair, said:

I congratulate Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Jordan Cunningham on introducing the California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill.

The Code’s introduction in the UK has already led to tangible changes to children’s experiences online. These changes should be enforceable around the world, and adoption by the Californian legislature would be a giant step towards building a safer and more equitable digital world for children.

The UK Code has been adapted to align with existing State legislation – namely the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) – so that the bill is tailored to, and delivers for, California’s children. If passed, it would give Californian children the same protections as children in the UK, and would drive further compliance with the Age Appropriate Design Code around the globe.

Buffy Wicks, California State Assemblywoman, Democrat, said:

As a legislator, I’m honored to introduce this bill — and as a mom, I see it as a necessity. Like so many other parents, I grapple with how challenging it is to protect our kids from the harmful content and experiences they’ll encounter online.

Today, that starts to change — with this bill, California has the opportunity to lead the way in making the digital world safer for all American children, giving our kids the highest level of protection possible in the online world.

Being online is no longer a choice for children, it is part of their childhood and its design defines their experiences. The California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill will bring the world one step closer to delivering the digital world that young people deserve – one that is safe by design and by default.

As reported in:

Additional resources:

  • See here for a short brief on the California Age Appropriate Design Code.
  • See here for the joint support letter to the California State Assembly.