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KidTech – Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to ‘Kid’ Tech
Why? Youth especially need to be protected from harmful aspects of technology including but not limited to online stalking, data theft, screen addiction, social isolation, and impacts on social development and learning.
Because tech can be harmful and a constitutional amendment takes years to pass, we need a law on the books now to protect kids from exploitative technology and data collection.
Petition Delay & Bill Lobbying
This petition is being delayed since we are focusing building support for other petition initiatives now. However, we are interested in moving this forward. In our submission of the content to the attorney general’s office in 2022, the content was essentially approved as legal for a petition initiative. We still need to format the content in correct legal form, however.
What is in the proposed law?
As proposed in 2022, this law restricts the amount of data that can be collected in schools through higher education to only that necessary. To limit potential harm from screen time, the bill removes mandated screen time in public schools from PreK through grade 12, and instead requires annual or biennial hearings on screen time in the local community to discuss age-appropriate screen time limits and technologies, with local school authorities setting limits.
This law also adopts a proposed California law, the California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill, as introduced. That law would apply to youth under 18 in Massachusetts.
This would require that online services, products, or features directed at or likely to be used by youth must be designed with the best interests of youth in mind, including prioritizing their privacy, safety, and well-being. This means addictive interfaces, persuasive technologies, behavioral advertising, micro-targeting, and other dark patterns must be curtailed.
Age verification must be minimally invasive. The highest level of privacy must be maintained, and profiles are disabled unless a valid reason of benefit to the youth exists. Any data collected must be used only as for the reason(s) it was collected, which with terms of service must be clearly specified in language understandable to the age group likely to access the product. A youth’s data may not be used in a manner harmful to the child. If software allows parents to track youth, then youth should be given a signal this is so. Tools are to be provided to allow youth to report violations and exercise privacy rights.
Relevant businesses must also undertake a Data Protection Impact Assessment of their products to assess potential risks for youth and provide this annually to the state to a designated privacy agency.
To support these requirements, a youth protection task force must be created to recommend best practices for compliance that is composed of experts in privacy, physical health, mental health, children’s well-being, technology, and children’s rights. In coordination with the task force, the state must set regulations.
For age-appropriate design protections, the Massachusetts state legislature would be required to create an effective enforcement mechanism and a regulatory privacy agency.
Center for Humane Technology Ledger of Harms: https://ledger.humanetech.com/
The California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill is also discussed here and here and here. The status of the bill can be seen here:
Mandated screen time in education standards from PreK up, e.g.:
• PreK: “Recognize that digital tools (e.g., computers, cell phones, cameras, or other devices) are used for communication and, with support and guidance, use them to convey messages in pictures and/or words.” See https://www.mass.gov/media/8856/download
• K-up: skip to page 23 in this document: https://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/dlcs.pdf