Information Commissioner's Office has recently published a new code of practice designed to encourage companies to protect children's privacy more effectively and by default.
The Age Appropriate Design Code is a new set of 15 standards that online service providers will be expected to follow in order to better protect young people online.
These standards will apply to a wide range of online services including everything from social media to online games and apps, connected toys, streaming services and more.
The UK's data watchdog says these standards will require providers of these services to have a built-in baseline of data protection whenever children are involved. The Age Appropriate Design Code is also intended to apply to anyone under the age of 18, which is a stronger requirement than the current data protection laws which set a set a limit of 13 years old before children can be tracked online.
The new set of 15 standards is intended to ensure that only the minimum amount of data is collected and stored. Apps and services will essentially need to adopt a high privacy setting stance by default. Things like profile data collection, geolocation data, data sharing and more should be turned off as standard.
It is also said that companies will be required to use clearer language in regards to privacy policies and the terms in which data will be used. This will mean it should be explained in an age-appropriate way, perhaps including the use of "diagrams, cartoons, graphics, video and audio content" rather than traditional written terms.
These new standards are designed to help protect children in a number of different ways. It has also been suggested that they were created following a growing issue with grooming by predators, data misuse, gambling issues and mental health problems caused by services.
The Age Appropriate Design Code needs to go through an approval process in Parliament before it's passed into effect. Information Commissioner's Office says when the code is approved, organisations will have 12 months to change their practices. It's thought that the deadline will be sometime in autumn 2021.
The ICO will also have the ability to act against companies failing to act:
"The regulator has powers to take action against organisations that break the law including tough sanctions like orders to stop processing data and fines of up to £17 million or four per cent of global turnover."
You can find out more about the Age Appropriate Design Code at the ICO website.