ICO publishes new online Code of Practice to protect the privacy of children

  • The UK ICO has published a set of 15 guidelines all apps and websites targeting children will have to follow by around Autumn 2021 to protect the privacy of children online.

    Online privacy has been one of the most important issues for people in developed world in recent years. Major tech companies developing apps and social media platforms have been buying and selling our personal data and using it to targeting advertising to us, and in many cases that personal information has been leaked to third parties without permission through poor security.

    These problems have prompted stricter data protection laws such as GDPR in recent years, requiring that companies obtain informed consent for collecting and processing the personal information of their users. But there are still groups of people who use online services and may not be able to actually give informed consent, such as young children.

    This week the UK Information Commissioner’s Office published the final version of its Age Appropriate Design Code standards. This is a set of 15 standards that all online services should meet in order to protect the privacy of children online. It covers the expected design standards for apps, websites, social media platforms, streaming services, online games, and connected toys. Services which are likely to be accessed by children and may process their personal data will fall under the new guidelines.

    Among the standards is a requirement that data privacy settings be set to a high level such as switching off location settings in apps that might make the child's location public. A limit must also be placed on targeted content such as advertising when targeting children, and collection and sharing of personal information should be minimised.

    Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham commetned on the new guidelines: "In an age when children learn how to use an iPad before they ride a bike, it is right that organisations designing and developing online services do so with the best interests of children in mind. Children’s privacy must not be traded in the chase for profit. One in five internet users in the UK is a child, but they are using an internet that was not designed for them."

    The code will now go through Parliament for approval, after which time companies will have 12 months to update their services to comply with it. It's estimated that firms have until Autumn 2021 to get ready for the enforcement of the new code of practice. A significant package of support is being prepared by the ICO to help companies adapt to the change.

    The full text of the code and guidelines for its implementation can be found on the ICO website.

    Source: ICO

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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