UK children’s digital privacy code goes into effect

Age Appropriate Design Code mandates apps to take ‘best interests’ of child users into account

“This shows tech companies are not exempt,” said Beeban Kidron, the baroness and campaigner who introduced the legislation that created the code. “This exceptionalism that has defined the last decade, that they are different, just disappears in a puff of smoke when you say, ‘actually, this is business. And business has to be safe, equitable, run along rules that at a minimum protect vulnerable users.’”

“This code will lead to changes that will help empower both adults and children,” said Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner. “One in five UK internet users are children, but they are using an internet that was not designed for them. In our own research conducted to inform the direction of the code, we heard children describing data practices as ‘nosy’, ‘rude’ and a ‘bit freaky’.

“When my grandchildren are grown and have children of their own, the need to keep children safer online will be as second nature as the need to ensure they eat healthily, get a good education or buckle up in the back of a car.”

YouTube also updated its default privacy settings, and turned off the auto-play option by default for all users aged 13-17, while a plethora of changes at Facebook sees users under 18 exempted from targeted advertising entirely, receive tighter default sharing settings, and get protection from “potentially suspicious accounts” – adults who have previously been blocked by large numbers of young people on the site.

Many of the companies insisted that the changes were not fully motivated by the code, however. A Google spokesperson said its updates extended beyond any single current or upcoming regulation, while a Facebook spokesperson said its update “wasn’t based on any specific regulation”.

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