Technology giants could soon be curbed from the “eye-watering and inappropriate data-harvesting” they perform on young children if a group of peers get their way in securing an amendment to the UK Data Protection Bill.
The change has been put forward by crossbench peer Lady Beeban Kidron, who is co-founder of the education charity Filmclub and directed Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Kidron has been pushing for technology companies to rein in activities which target children since joining the House of Lords five years ago.
The amendment to the Bill – which is currently with the Lords – calls for companies to be subject to minimum standards of age-appropriate design, including assurances that high privacy settings are switched on by default when a user is under 16.
It is an area which is also of great concern to the Information Commissioner’s Office; last week it handed out funds to support a major study into kids’ online safety as part of the ICO Grants Programme.
Kidron also wants to prevent firms from revealing GPS locations of younger users and put a block on their data from being widely shared. The move could also require commercially driven content targeting to children to be clearly identified.
It has been reported that the measures have already won the support of senior Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem peers, who claim that a barrage of information, based on data-gathering, is causing social anxieties, affecting young people’s sleep and poses a risk of personal information being disseminated online. Kadron said “eye-watering and inappropriate data-harvesting” being used to profile young people had major implications.
The amendment has also been backed by former TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding of Winscombe. In an interview with The Observer, she said: “I know the positive power of the digital world – but there are downsides as well as the upsides.
“I would love to believe that commercial platforms will move fast enough that you don’t have to regulate, but there is no sign of that. It is difficult to reach consensus when there is no referee in the room. To make sure children are protected, we should set standards.”
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