A prohibition on social media platforms establishing an account for minors under the age of 16 without a parent or guardian’s consent is no longer part of a larger bill touching on online data and privacy headed to the governor’s desk.

As amended, SB 3 is a 37-page bill that not only creates standards for accessing and sharing consumer health data but also creates guidelines for how social media platforms and operators of certain online services process minor’s personal data.

The version of the bill approved by the Judiciary Committee on March 30 prohibited social media platforms from creating accounts for minors under the age of 16 without consent from the minor’s parent or guardian. A violation of that provision would have been considered an unfair trade practice.

That provision was struck by an amendment, which the Senate adopted on May 11. But other provisions in the bill that regulate how online companies and services can process data associated with minors remain.

The version of the bill passed by the Judiciary Committee required social media platforms to delete the account of a minor within ten days of receiving such a request from either the minor or, if they are under the age of 16, their parent or guardian. Within the same time frame, the committee’s version of the bill required social media platforms to stop processing data from a minor from whom they had received a request to delete their account.

The amendment to the bill, adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, lengthens the time frame social media platforms have to respond to such requests. Social media platforms will be required to unpublish the account of a minor within 15 business days of receiving a request and must generally delete the account within 45 business days of receiving an authenticated request.

A social media company can extend the 45 business day period for another 45 days if doing so is “reasonably necessary considering the complexity and number of the consumer’s request” provided the platform informs either the minor or their parent or guardian within the initial 45 day period.

The committee’s bill required social media platforms to establish one or more “secure and reliable means” for submitting a request and the amendment retains that provision.

Additionally, the amendment clarifies that if a social media platform is unable to authenticate a request, they are not required to comply and must disclose to the consumer who submitted the request that they are unable to authenticate the request and will be unable to do so until the consumer provides additional information “that is reasonably necessary to authenticate such request.”

Like the version of the bill passed by the Judiciary Committee, the amendment retains language clarifying that violating any provisions in this section of the bill will constitute an unfair trade practice.

Other provisions in the bill that create a framework for how operators of online services manage and process the personal data of minors also remain. Like the committee bill, the amendment requires operators of online services to use care to avoid having their services or products cause a heightened risk of harm to minors. Operators of online services are also prohibited from processing a minor’s personal data without either the consent of a minor or their guardian, from using any features designed to increase the time a minor spends using an online service, or collecting the precise geolocation data of a minor.

In total, the Senate amendment had 27 sponsors. Following the Senate’s adoption of the amendment, the full bill passed the chamber unanimously with all 36 senators voting in support of it.

The House voted to adopt the bill as amended on June 2, with 142 representatives voting in favor of the bill, 72 voting against, and 9 not voting. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for signature.

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An advocate for transparency and accountability, Katherine has over a decade of experience covering government. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine and her...

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