Anytime age-restricted products – for example weapons, alcohol, tobacco and porn – are offered for sale online in California, merchants would have to “take reasonable steps to verify the age of the purchaser”, if a recently amended bill makes it into law.
Assembly bill 2511, authored by Ed Chau (D – Monterey Park), started out as a privacy bill aimed at preventing commercial use of social media postings by minors, and would have generally reinforced bans on selling certain things to them. Arguably, selling guns, porn or booze to minors or mining their social media for commercial purposes without their parents’ permission is already illegal. But arguably there were loopholes and the original idea was to close them.
Since layering on new language on top of existing bans can create confusion and new loopholes, Chau told the assembly privacy and consumer protection committee that he wanted “to narrow the bill to reflect
his underlying intent, which is to intensify the age verification efforts online sellers must undertake with respect to specified goods”.
Opponents – including Internet industry groups – objected, saying age verification requirements would be burdensome, and would require websites to collect even more personal data about customers, creating even more privacy problems.
Chau’s response, according the committee’s analysis, was to toss the problem back to them…
Innovation and technology have created new types of marketplaces which have greatly increased convenience for Californians. However, those new technologies also came with a host of problems. It is time to apply that same innovative spirit the tech sector embodies to the solving of undesirable consequences. I am confident that as this bill moves through the process, we can come up with a solution that will balance all of the competing interests.
In other words, Chau’s bill is still a work in progress, and if it moves forward more amendments are likely. AB 2511 is queued up for a vote by the full California assembly, with a deadline coming on Friday – if it isn’t approved by then, it’ll be a dead issue.