CAADC Clash: Protecting Children’s Privacy in the Tech Arena

By Alicia Damiano

In a monumental move towards protecting online privacy rights for children, the California Privacy Protection Agency Board has recommended to appoint Dr. Jennifer King to the California Children’s Data Protection Working Group (the “Working Group”), pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1798.99.32.[1] Dr. King is a privacy and data policy fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.[2] She is described as having expertise in addressing diverse challenges faced by children in Californian communities and “familiarity with the growing body of research analyzing how children use apps differently depending on their family’s income level.”[3]  

Beginning July 2024 the Working Group will be responsible for submitting biennial reports and recommendations to the Legislature and will comprise of experts in at least two of the following fields: children’s data privacy; physical health; mental health and well-being; computer science; and children’s rights.[4] The Working Group will remain effective until 2030.[5]

This development is a direct outcome of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act[6] (CAADC), and while the Act holds great promise for safeguarding the digital landscape for minors, tech companies are concerned and turning to the courts for their own protection[7]

The CAADC became law in 2022 and businesses are required to adhere to requirements beginning July 2024.[8] The mission of the CAADC is to protect the online privacy and security of all minors while prioritizing their best interests.[9] The CAADC will mandate businesses that provide online services, products, or features likely to be accessed by children to implement protective data collection methods.[10] Among other things, it will require such businesses to configure highest-level privacy settings specific to age-range, publish age-appropriate, clear and concise policy language, and complete and maintain Data Protection Impact Assessments.[11]

Pursuant to the bill, violating businesses will be liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $2,500 for each negligent violation and not exceeding $7,500 for each intentional violation, “per affected child.”[12]

Some tech companies are racing to the courts to block the bill before its implementation next year, categorizing the bill as a content-based restriction that facially violates their First Amendment rights.[13] NetChoice, a tech industry group that includes big names such as Amazon, Google, TikTok, and Meta, contends, among other things, that the subjective, vague standards and “crushing financial penalties” by the government will induce self-censorship by companies and not only harm the Internet as a whole, but the very group the Act aims to protect – children.[14] In their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, NetChoice argues the Act will detrimentally limit accessibility to important information and resources for users of all ages, “particularly for vulnerable youth who rely on the Internet for life-saving information.”[15]

The experts of the Working Group must address the dire need for creating a safe online environment for minors while respecting the necessary flow of free speech and data use on the Internet. However, this will require a delicate balance that will likely result in many legal complexities and conversations to come.

[1] Memorandum from Maureen Mahoney, Deputy Dir. of Pol’y and Legis. to the Cal. Priv. Prot. Agency Bd. (Aug 24, 2023)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.99.32 (Deering 2022).

[6] Id.

[7] See, e.g., Lauren Feiner, Tech Industry Group Sues to Block California Law Designed to Protect Kids Online Over Free Speech Concerns, CNBC (Dec. 14, 2022, 3:33 PM),

[8] Four Key Considerations for Implementing the California Age-Appropriate Design Code, Perkins Coie (Mar. 30, 2023),

[9] Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.99.29 (Deering 2022).

[10] Id.

[11] Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.99.31 (Deering 2022) (effective Jan. 1, 2024, operative July 1, 2024).

[12] Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.99.35 (Deering 2022).

[13] Feiner, supra note 7.  

[14] See Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief at 8, NetChoice, LLC v. Rob Bonta, Attorney General of Cal., No. 22-cv-08861 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 15, 2022).

[15] Id.