UK brings porn sites under Children’s Code to protect kids’ data

London: The UK on Friday revised its position on its groundbreaking Children’s code that came into force last year, saying that porn and adult-only services are now in scope of the Children’s Code if they are likely to be accessed by children.

Earlier, the code required online services including social media platforms, apps and games to provide better privacy protections for children, ensuring their personal data is protected within the digital world.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said in a statement that they have seen an increasing amount of research that children are likely to be accessing adult-only services and that these pose data protection harms, with children losing control of their data or being manipulated to give more data, in addition to content harms.

“We have therefore revised our position to clarify that adult-only services are in scope of the Children’s Code if they are likely to be accessed by children,” the ICO said.

The Children’s Code was fully rolled out in September 2021.

In the past year, the ICO’s action has prompted changes by social media platforms, gaming websites and video streaming services.

Changes include targeted and personalised ads being blocked for children, children’s accounts set to private by default, adults blocked from directly messaging children and notifications turned off at bedtime.

The code has also had an international effect, inspiring reviews of children’s privacy protections in California, Europe, Canada and Australia.

“We’ve seen real changes since the Children’s Code came into force a year ago. These changes come as a result of the ICO’s action enforcing the code, making clear to industry the changes that are required,” said Information Commissioner John Edwards.

“The result is that children are better protected online in 2022 than they were in 2021. This code makes clear that children are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections. We want children to be online, learning, playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place to do so,” Edwards said.

The Code has been instrumental in behaviour change of Big Tech platforms and smaller online services.

Facebook and Instagram have limited targeting to age, gender, and location for under-18s. Accounts for users under 13-years-of-age are deleted upon detection. Both Facebook and Instagram ask users to share their birthday with the platform if they haven’t shared it previously.

YouTube has turned off autoplay by default and turned on take a break and bedtime reminders by default for Google Accounts for under 18s.

Google has enabled anyone under 18 (or their parent/guardian) to request to remove their images from Google image search results, location history cannot be enabled by Google accounts of under 18s, and they have expanded safeguards to prohibit age-sensitive ad categories from being shown to these users.

“We will continue to evolve our approach, listening to others to ensure the code is having the maximum impact,” said the ICO.

 

(IANS)

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