California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last week that would allow young people to petition Web companies to remove embarrassing items they posted while underage -- effectively erasing the online record of those posts or events.
Here's the meat of the law:
The bill would, on and after January 1, 2015, require the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user of the operator's Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application, to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted on the operator's Internet Web site, service, or application by the minor, unless the content or information was posted by a 3rd party, any other provision of state or federal law requires the operator or 3rd party to maintain the content or information, or the operator anonymizes the content or information. The bill would require the operator to provide notice to a minor that the minor may remove the content or information, as specified.
That picture of you blotto, in your junior year of high school at an illegal keg party? You can make it go away forever by asking the company to remove it before you turn 18. Of course, if we're talking Facebook, you can already remove tags. You can delete pictures and otherwise massage the record. You can also put security limits on who can access your account on Facebook. If it's not public, then people can't see the photo if you limit your account to friends only.
The new California law raises larger questions about minors and their behavior, and about how the law itself fits within the so-called Right to Be Forgotten Online movement.