Proposed ‘Kids Code’ bill aims to prevent predatory data collection

Published 3:53 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

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By Tom Crann and Ngoc Bui Bridgette, Minnesota Public Radio News

Bridgette Norring lost her son after he purchased what he thought were Percocet pills online. They turned out to be fentanyl. She testified at the state Capitol on Wednesday in support of a bill she said would have protected him.

The Minnesota Kids Code (HF 2257/SF 2810) was up for discussion last year and is now getting a second pass after being amended.

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“Every other product our children touch from the car seat my grandchildren come home from, to the fireproof pajamas we dress them in at night are required to meet specific safety requirements to be sold for use by kids, our most vulnerable population. Tech should not be an exception,” Norring said.

5Rights US is one of the organizations working on this specific legislation in Minnesota. It is also working on efforts in other states to pass similar laws.

The head of 5Rights US Nichole Rocha says it’s time we create greater safeguards for young people online. “We are at critical mass when it comes to protecting kids online. We have seen over the past couple of decades that tech will not regulate itself,” she said.

The following transcription has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the headline about what this would do and how it works?

It is, first and foremost, a data minimization bill. So, if you have a child requesting a service online, if they want to sign on to a social media platform, or if they want to buy something online, they can do that.

But it would prohibit the platform from collecting additional information about them. And then the information that the platform does have, they would not be able to sell it.

One of the most invasive types of data that they can collect is geolocation information and that really gets to the stalking aspect. That information would not be permitted to be collected about children.

And it would require high privacy settings by default for any website or app that children are likely to access.

What would it not do or that people may be concerned about, including free speech advocates?

The bill would not prohibit a child from searching for any sort of content. It would not prohibit a platform from delivering any sort of content to them. It is not content regulation.

What the bill would also not do is require age verification. Age verification can be very privacy-invasive, and it is what opponents of the bill will say is going to require the collection of so much additional personal information.

The bill very clearly says you do not have to age verify. But if you do, you have to do it in the most privacy-protective manner possible.

You can’t gather any more information than is reasonably necessary, and you can’t use it for any other purpose.

What do you think people need to understand that maybe isn’t getting out there about this?

We are at critical mass when it comes to protecting kids online. We have seen over the past couple of decades that tech will not regulate itself, so states are scrambling to try and figure out how to protect their youngest and most vulnerable residents.

And we see a lot of legislation that goes about this the wrong way.

What we have with the Minnesota Kids Code is something that is very narrowly tailored to ensure that platforms collect the least amount of information about kids, use it just for that specified purpose, and they can’t be profiled or targeted — or any of these things that we see that have been designed to maximize their use of screens.

They can use the Internet and all it has to offer but the online predatory collection [and] exploitation of their information will be prohibited.