California’s Do-Not-Track and Eraser laws may harm internet businesses

Last month, California lawmakers passed new laws that will affect the internet industry and businesses that rely on internet marketing, advertising and online services to customers. While national groups wrestle about e-commerce and internet law issues, California has established itself as a leader when it comes to passing internet privacy laws.

Eraser law

Starting January 1, 2015, social media websites must allow California children to remove their own internet postings. The new "Eraser Bill," allows people under the age of 18 to delete embarrassing posts, photos or other online indiscretions that may harm their chances of obtaining employment or college admission.

Tightening up on internet privacy issues for children is at the heart of the new law. While some major social media companies already allow users to delete unwanted posts, the bill forces all such sites to provide a delete option for California minors. The added requirement may create a disincentive for new internet businesses and may unduly complicate compliance issues if the businesses operate in a number of states.

Unfortunately, the law does not cover posts by other people or from other sources, adding legal requirements for internet companies that may be largely ineffective due to the viral nature of the internet.

"Do Not Track" law

Of even greater concern for California internet businesses and users is the new "Do Not Track" bill. Tracking online user activity is vitally important for many companies as they use the collected data about their users in order to provide targeting advertising and marketing efforts. Online ads are a main source of income for many internet businesses and the ability to hone in on what individual users like is the key to selling marketing space on web pages. Additionally, internet companies often resell tracked data.

Most web browsers allow a do-not-track option for internet users. However, internet companies are not required to comply, nor are they under an obligation to admit that they continue to track user information after receiving requests not to do so. That will change once the new law goes into effect.

Once implemented, all online businesses must provide an option for California users to request that their online use not be tracked. Additionally, after do-not-track requests are received, the company must disclose:

  • Whether they continue to track users.
  • How they comply with user requests not to track.

Those businesses that do not provide the legally required information are subject to public criticism. While this is not a concern for internet giants like Google and Facebook, smaller companies have reason to be concerned.

A lawyer can help

Internet laws are confusing and subject to radical changes. If you conduct business online, consult an experienced internet law attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable about internet fraud and defamation, online advertising and marketing rules, internet privacy concerns and other issues dealing with internet use can help.