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California bill 2273 would require websites and apps to verify visitors’ ID

(by Didi Rankovich | Reclaim The Net) – California’s bill CA AB 2273, designed to enact the Age-Appropriate Design Code (AADC) is just one among the bills raising concerns in terms of how they might negatively affect the web going forward.

Like their counterparts in the EU, legislators in California, according to their critics, present online child safety as their only goal – and a stated desire to improve this is hard to argue with, even when arguments are valid – such as that the proposed bills may in fact do nothing to better protect children, while eroding the rights of every internet user.

Among other things, AB 2273 aims to require sites and apps to authenticate the age of all their users before allowing access. Attempts to introduce mandatory age authentication have also cropped up in other jurisdictions before, but have proven controversial, technically difficult to implement, with a high potential to compromise user data collected in this way, and intrusive to people’s privacy.

In California, the situation doesn’t look much different as critics of this bill say that authentication will require site operators and businesses to deal with personal data collection from every user, and worry about using and storing it securely.

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

In addition, some kind of government-issued ID – or surrendering biometric data such as that collected through facial recognition – is necessary to prove one’s age in the first place; and this is where forcing sites and services to require this information would effectively mean the end of anonymity online.

As ever, this is a threat that is disproportionately felt by vulnerable categories of internet users such as various dissidents, contrarians, minorities, as well as whistleblowers and activists. And, the right to remain anonymous online also ties in with First Amendment protections in the US.

Anonymity is under threat considering that age authentication would be imposed on all internet users, and it also means that the way people use the internet today would change for good from the user experience point of view, with “age authentication walls” raised by websites. On top of that, the verification would have to be persistent (or require users to repeat the process each time they access a site or service), further aggravating privacy and data security concerns.

2022 is the year of US (midterm) elections, so focusing on this type of “feelgood” legislation, such as making children safe, is a way politicians are expected to pander to their constituencies, regardless of all the “unintended consequences” or even the low likelihood that the scheme could be efficiently implemented, purely from the technical point of view. Read Full Article >

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