Mon 22 Apr 2024

ICO sets priorities on safeguarding children’s data for social media and video-sharing platforms

The Information Commissioner’s Office is honing in on social media and video-sharing platforms by outlining its 2024-2025 priorities for protecting children's personal information online with its Children's code strategy.


The Children's code strategy comes after the ICO introduced its Children’s code of practice in 2021 which is aimed at ensuring online platforms better safeguard children’s data. The code has been well-received and inspired similar codes across the world.  The ICO has provided organisations with advice and intervened where necessary, as well as empowered children with resources on privacy and personal information.  Since the code was introduced, the ICO has been working with experts, regulators, and partners – including Ofcom, the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum and international counterparts - to inform its work.

Next steps

The ICO is now focussing on enhancing the safety of children using social media and video-sharing platforms by calling for improvements in data protection practices. In the United Kingdom, research shows that 97% of children aged 16-17 use social media platforms, meanwhile 96% of those aged 3-17 use video-sharing platforms.

The use of such platforms can increase harm to children depending on how their personal information is processed. Therefore, the ICO wishes to ensure that more is to be done in protecting children’s personal information and ensuring processing is in the child’s best interest.  John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, comments that “children’s privacy must not be traded in the chase for profit.  How companies design their online services and use children’s personal information have a significant impact on what young people see and experience in the digital world.”

Key areas of focus

The ICO Children's code strategy is focussing on:

  1. Default privacy settings:  By default, children’s profiles should be private, and geolocation turned off. Access to a child’s location risks compromising their safety or mental wellbeing.
  2. Targeted advertisements:  Profiling children for targeting advertising is discouraged without compelling reason.  This should be turned off by default to protect children’s autonomy over their personal information and prevent potential financial harm.
  3. Recommender systems:  The use of children’s information in algorithmically generated content feeds can result in exposure to harmful content.  The ICO encourages the careful design of these systems to avoid such exposure and to prevent excessive screen-time.
  4. Information of children under 13:  Parental consent is required to allow the processing by online platforms of the data of children under the age of 13. The ICO emphasises the importance and dependability of age assurance technologies.

The ICO will continue to engage with stakeholders, international partners, and regulatory bodies to enhance supervision and enforcement efforts on protecting children’s privacy.  The ICO will also gather evidence plan (a call for evidence will be published in summer 2024) and conduct audits on the use of educational technology to better understand privacy risk, challenges, and ensure compliance with data protection laws.

Contact one of our data protection specialists should you have any questions regarding compliance with the ICO’s 2024-2025 Children’s code strategy, or how it might affect your business.

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