A Reminder about Forgetting

July 15, 2015.   With Europe’s “right to be forgotten” in the news again,1 it’s a good time to remind clients that our domestic version became effective earlier this year. The California law, entitled “Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World,” allows minors to delete content they’ve previously posted online, apparently assuming that adolescents lack the maturity to exercise good judgment in their online activities, but possess the insight to eventually realize this.

The “eraser button” law applies to a wide range of digital properties – Web sites, online services, online applications, and mobile applications – if they are intended to reach predominantly minors (defined as California residents under 18) or if there is actual knowledge that they are used by a minor.2

The operator of the site or application must permit minors who are registered users to remove, or request and obtain removal of, content posted by the minor. In addition, the operator must provide certain mandated notices.

There are a number of statutory exceptions to the erasure requirement. For example, operators don’t need to remove posts if the content has been anonymized or if the minor received consideration for the post. They also don’t need to remove content reposted or stored by third parties, even if originally posted by the minor.3

Some consumer groups are pushing for a more expansive right to be forgotten in the U.S.4 While the debate continues, we adults, unlike California teens, will have to make do without the do-over.

1. “French Regulator Orders Google To Extend ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Worldwide”

2. In addition to the “eraser button” provisions, a less-publicized section of the law prohibits or limits operators from marketing or advertising certain products and services, including tobacco, alcohol, firearms, and tattoos.

3. Click here for the full text of the law, including all exceptions.

4. “Consumer Group Wants Government to make Google give Americans ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Online