UK Children’s Code puts new onus on digital platforms

The new Age Appropriate Design Code marks an ‘enormous step forward’ for children’s digital rights in the UK, says the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Anna Longfield has welcomed the introduction into the law of the code comprising 15 standards which online platforms must meet to be able to protect the data and privacy of under 18s.

Fines as high as £18 million or four per cent of a firm’s global turnover are the potential penalties for any platforms failing to meet the standards, as they will be breaking General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

Estalished by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) the standards require platforms to be guided by the best interests of the child as a primary consideration. Privacy settings must, by default, be set as high for the amount of data collected from children to be minimised, and for platforms to avoid using so-called ‘nudge’ techniques – or influencing behaviour – to encourage children to share more of their personal data.

Success depends on implementation

There will first be a transition period of 12 months before platforms are required to meet the code’s requirements.

The code is risk-based, which means it does not apply to all organisations in the same way. Those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services like apps, connected toys, social media platforms, online games, educational websites and streaming services that use, analyse and profile children’s data, are likely to have to do more to conform to the code.

Anna Longfield said: “This is the product of months and years of hard work from the Information Commissioner’s Office and campaigners, and is a remarkable achievement. But its success now depends on its implementation. The ICO will need to take bold enforcement action against platforms which fail to comply with its requirements.

A high bar needs to be set

“In particular, a high bar needs to be set for what platforms are expected to do to verify the age of their users. Efforts to protect children online will amount to very little indeed if platforms do not know who the children are.

“The code protects children’s data and privacy, but many more protections are needed for children to stay safe and well online. It is now critical that the Government progresses its online harms legislation without further delay, so that children can enjoy all the benefits of the digital world while avoiding the risks.”

Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, said: “A generation from now we will all be astonished that there was ever a time when there wasn’t specific regulation to protect kids online. It will be as normal as putting on a seatbelt. This code makes clear that kids are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections. We want children to be online, learning and playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place.

She acknowledged that companies, particularly small businesses, would need time to comply with the code, adding: “That’s why we have taken the decision to give businesses a year to prepare, and why we’re offering help and support.

Click here for full details from the ICO about how the code will work

Author: Simon Weedy

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