Official online safety publications seem to be like buses. You wait all winter for a White Paper, and seven days after it’s published the Information Commissioner’s Office has released its response to the Age Appropriate Design Code. If the Age Verification announcement is made in the next couple of weeks it will be an April hat-trick.
Working towards behavioural change online
On an initial reading, there is a logic to this sequencing. The White Paper repeats the desire to change the cultural norms of behaviour on the internet – referencing the UK’s “wider ambition to develop rules and norms for the internet” and “rules and norms for the internet that discourage harmful behaviour”. These are good ambitions that Internet Matters welcomes and works to support. It’s good to see that ICO is building on that ambitious cultural change in this Design Code.
The focus on ‘Best interests of children’ provisions are a real step forward – in an environment that we have long said has not been created with children in mind. So, wisely the code is rooted in the GDPR provisions, and we understand that much work was done to ensure the draft code was compliant, and from this, significant implications will flow.
Here’s what we think it means:
- The public broadcasting of a child’s geolocation data will not meet the standards of the code. As a parent it’s hard to imagine why the public broadcasting of my child’s location is in their best interest.
- Use of data for profiling purposes. Again, as a parent, I would challenge the notion that my child is merely a market to which a commercial entity may sell products, or my child is merely a vessel for data, which has a value. So, it’s hard to argue that profiling my child’s data passes the ‘in their best interest’ test.
- The linking of nudge techniques for extended use strategies and their relationship to the commercial imperative for more data is also interesting and will require some deep thought amongst companies whose products are widely used by children.
There’s so much more and a short 6-week timeframe to respond. There are some fairly significant decisions to be made here, not least about the technical feasibility of some of these issues and solutions. However, the focus on children meriting special protection is absolutely right and something we wholeheartedly endorse.
We are currently working our way through the detailed consultation and will publish our response on the website as soon as we have submitted it.