Following a transition year, The Children’s Code of Conduct comes fully into force on 2 September 2021. The Age Appropriate Design Code is a data protection code of practice for online services, such as apps, online games, and web and social media sites, likely to be accessed by children.
The Children’s Code sets out 15 standards organisations must meet to ensure that children’s data is protected online. The code will apply to all the major online services used by children in the UK and includes measures such as providing default settings that ensure that children have the best possible access to online services whilst minimising data collection and use. More information on the Children’s code is available here.
It came into force on 2 September 2020 with a 12 month transition period to give organisations time to prepare. The ICO is committed to supporting all organisations with advice and resources to help them achieve compliance by 2 September 2021.
The code creates a safer environment online for children by ensuring service providers respect a child’s rights and freedoms when using their personal data.
The Code has already encouraged companies such as Facebook, Google, Instagram and TikTok to review their child privacy and safety measures.
As the first of its kind, it’s also having an influence globally. Members of the US Senate and Congress have called on major US tech and gaming companies to voluntarily adopt the standards in the ICO’s code for children in America. The Data Protection Commission in Ireland is preparing to introduce the Children’s Fundamentals to protect children online, which links closely to the code and follows similar core principles.
The Children’s code will help the industry ensure that the safety and interests of children are a primary concern online and at the centre of design in the future. However, the ICO acknowledged that the work doesn’t stop there. They have identified risks from social media platforms, video and music streaming sites and video gaming platforms. The ICO will be proactive in requiring these platforms to demonstrate how their services are being used and designed in line with the code.
The ICO is also considering how organisations in the scope of the Children’s code can tackle age assurance, through either age verification or age estimation. The ICO will set out a formal position on this topic later in the year.
Ultimately the Children’s code will help the industry innovate to ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary concern online and built into the design from the beginning. This will grow the trust between online services, children, parents and society.