Judge blocks California child internet privacy law

September 18, 2023 at 20:21

A district judge in California blocked the state from enforcing a new law requiring Big Tech companies to verify users' ages before giving them access to their websites.

The District Court for the Northern District of California moved to block the California Age Appropriate Design Code, or CAADC, on Monday. The bill would have restricted apps' ability to collect data on anyone 18 or younger and required apps to implement their highest privacy standards for children and teenagers. It also would have required the platforms to add technology to verify a user's age before allowing access.


Judge Beth Labson Freeman, an Obama appointee, granted the preliminary injunction because she said that the industry group that had petitioned for it is likely to succeed in its case that the law is unconstitutional.

"We appreciate the district court's thoughtful analysis of the First Amendment and decision to prevent regulators from violating the free speech and online privacy rights of Californians, their families, and their businesses as our case proceeds," said Chris Marchese, director of the NetChoice Litigation Center, in a statement. "We look forward to seeing the law permanently struck down and online speech and privacy fully protected."

The CAADC was passed unanimously in the summer of 2022 and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) in September. NetChoice, a conservative tech advocacy group, filed a suit in California in December 2022 alleging that the CAADC violated the First Amendment, that it violated the Commerce Clause by regulating companies outside of California, and that its data collection practices conflict with Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, the federal standard for handling minors' data.

The code is heavily inspired by the United Kingdom's Age-Appropriate Design Code, which the country implemented in 2021 and has similar privacy restrictions for youth in the U.K.


At least nine other states have introduced versions of the CAADC since the bill's passage.

California is not the only one dealing with a lawsuit involving age verification software. A Texas district judge blocked an age verification law that would have required websites hosting pornographic content to verify a user's age before giving them access.