Websites required to take down pictures of minors

With an influx of careless adolescent posts, such as unpleasant photos containing illicit substances, the Internet is transforming into a repository for embarrassment. On Jan. 1, 2015, web companies including social media sites like Keek will be required to remove any online activity whether it is a photo or a post if requested by a California minor, according to legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 23, 2013.

With the overwhelming increase of social networking and online activity of teens in the past decade, digital posts leave indelible marks on the web that follow adolescents into adulthood.

The bill will expand the privacy rights for minors in the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) which, motivated by California State Senate Pro Tempore President Darrell Steinberg, the bill is intended to increase web privacy for minors by eliminating easily searchable youth activity that can haunt them later on when applying for college or for jobs.

“This is a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences,”  Steinberg said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “They deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come.”

In addition, many of these web companies collect data from user posts and entries and share them with other firms. This new bill requires Internet firms to state whether they honor user requests to not track personal information.

If a minor requests web firms to delete a post, the firm must make it invisible to public viewing, however they are required to completely erase the information from their accumulated user data.

“I think this bill will be extremely useful for our generation because we are often unconscious of the consequences of what we post,” senior Shiri Arnon said. “This can help prevent colleges and employees from seeing the foolish things we post.”

A quirk in the bill is that the provisions do not extend to adults who wish to erase information they posted as minors. Furthermore, web companies cannot monitor whether the posts are reproduced on other sites. For example, if a photo containing minor consumption or possession of alcohol makes its way to other internet websites, college admission officers or potential employers still have means of finding that photo. As a result, the bill is not a completely productive method of digital protection.

Although common social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter already contain methods which enable users to self-select whether they wish to delete posts, digitally active teens still need to be conscious of what they post due to lack of guaranteed privacy protection.