ICO unveils ‘transformational’ code to force Facebook and Google to protect kids online

ICO unveils ‘transformational’ code to force Facebook and Google to protect kids online

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has introduced a stringent new privacy code designed to better protect children from becoming overexposed on social media, online games and streaming services.

The Age Appropriate Design Code encapsulates a new code of conduct for digital services to adhere to in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents, notably the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell who took her life after viewing inappropriate Instagram material.

No less than 15 standards are set out in the document governing everything from internet-connected toys to educational websites, streaming and social media platforms. These would switch off location sharing and set the highest privacy settings by default.

So-called ‘nudge’ techniques designed to coax children into surrendering their privacy rights would also be banned.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “I believe that it will be transformational. I think in a generation from now when my grandchildren have children they will be astonished to think that we ever didn't protect kids online.”

Welcoming the report the News Media Association wrote: “We welcome the fact that the code makes clear that publishers which adhere to codes such as the Editors’ Code of Practice will negate the need for providers of online news to take any additional steps in relation to news content for children.”

Subject to parliamentary approval the new code could be enshrined in law by autumn 2021, at which point large fines will be levied against those found to be in breach of its stipulations.

The ICO has previously called for greater powers to tackle fake news and data misuse.

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