wednesday, 22 january of 2020


UK to introduce sweeping regulations to protect children’s data

Ms Nash’s concerns were echoed by tech representatives from large and small firms, whose objections ranged from the ICO’s indiscriminate targeting of all online business, to its potential to strangle start-ups and its conflation of issues of inappropriate content with data protection.

"[The new framework] was developed by the ICO to a tight deadline with less industry engagement than is normal for an initiative of this scope," said Antony Walker, deputy chief executive of TechUK, an industry group representing Google, Facebook, Amazon and others. "In particular, we are concerned that it could lead to some unnecessary age-gating of online services."

Others working for digital start-ups in the UK said they were worried that the regulation was trying to solve the problem of harmful content through a broad-brush approach that would impact smaller companies negatively.

"This discussion started around how social media companies are acting, but it hits the whole digital economy. And you are actually going to drive traffic to the big tech companies that are financially able to build products that comply with this code," said a person close to the start-up industry, who did not wish to be named. "The breadth of the code, the age verification issue — it’s just a badly drawn piece of legislation."

In a draft of the regulation published in May, the ICO said it expected all companies to collect users’ personal information in order to verify their age. However after a backlash from online companies, it has softened its stance, saying that it will review the requirements for verification depending on the type of data being processed.

Despite criticisms, the new code has been touted as a pioneer.

"Children and their parents have long been left with all of the responsibility but none of the control over protecting children’s data. The Code will change this by forcing companies to put the ‘best interests’ of children above their own commercial interests," said Baroness Beeban Kidron, a member of the House of Lords who originally proposed the amendment to the law.

"There are laws to protect children in the real world — film ratings, car seats, age restrictions on drinking and smoking. We need our laws to protect children in the digital world too,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, who was responsible for drafting the rules. “In a generation from now, we will look back and find it astonishing that online services weren’t always designed with children in mind."

(Published by Financial Times, January 22, 2020)

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