A New Law Will Allow Teens to Erase Their Digital History

Starting in 2015, California will require web companies to expunge content at a minor’s request.

Sep 24 2013, 2:08pm
Image via Wikipedia.

Internet users will now have a certain degree of control over their online personas, as long as they are under 18 and live in California. 

Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into a law a piece of legislation, SB 568, that will offer the state’s minors a measure of protection against their own embarrassing online behavior.

While the youth of every other state struggle with the permanency of their virtual decisions, California will require web companies to expunge content at a minor’s request, starting in 2015. The bill leaves the mechanism for requests up to the individual companies. All that's stipulated is that a removal option must be offered, that minors must be notified that removal is an option, and that clear instructions be given should a minor wish to make a request.  

Those questionable YouTube videos you thought were hilarious when you were 13 but now find cringe-worthy? Gone. Those photos of you and your ex girlfriend at the beach that still pain you so much? Vanished. What about that profile pic of you smoking a blunt that now threatens your college chances? Goodbye.

Lest you think this is some panacea to the problem of teens embarrassing themselves on the internet, SB 568 is riddled with holes that will affect its efficiency. Chief among these is that this law only applies to California. As SFGate notes, this creates a “patchwork of regulation that could be difficult for the industry to navigate.”

Additionally, the “Eraser” law is of no use if the displeasing content was posted by a third party, such as a friend or family member. Hopefully, in those situations, a teen could ask an acquaintance to remove whatever image or information is irking them. But what if you’ve lost contact with that third party? Or what if you and the third party are arch nemeses, as so often happens in middle and high school?

Whether this tool will turn out to be a boon for California’s teens or a pain in the ass for companies, or both, we can’t yet know. But it’s important to emphasize that adults need not apply. Unfortunately for Californians who will be over the age of 18 in 2015, and everyone else in the US, you will either have to continue to be vigilant about your online identity or suck it up when you post something stupid on the internet.