The UK’s data protection watchdog has published a set of design standards for internet services which are intended to help protect the privacy and safety of children online – a move welcomed by Swindon-based BCS.
The ICO's Age Appropriate Design Code sets out the standards expected of those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services like apps, connected toys, social media platforms, online games, educational websites and streaming services. It covers services likely to be accessed by children and which process their data.
The code will require digital services to automatically provide children with a built-in baseline of data protection whenever they download a new app, game or visit a website.
That means privacy settings should be set to high by default and nudge techniques should not be used to encourage children to weaken their settings. Location settings that allow the world to see where a child is, should also be switched off by default. Data collection and sharing should be minimised and profiling that can allow children to be served up targeted content should be switched off by default too.
UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "Personal data often drives the content that our children are exposed to – what they like, what they search for, when they log on and off, and even how they are feeling.
“In an age when children learn how to use an iPad before they ride a bike, it is right that organisations designing and developing online services do so with the best interests of children in mind. Children’s privacy must not be traded in the chase for profit.”
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, welcomed the move. Director of policy Dr Bill Michell OBE said: "Embedding ethical IT practice across services like social media, which are so closely linked to young people’s wellbeing, is an excellent step forward.
“At the heart of this announcement is ethics and leaders working in digital industries making sure that at the point of creation, new social media channels, streaming services and others are ‘ethical by design’. Let’s not forget that we need individual practitioners to play their part, by demonstrating their own commitment to ethical standards by signing up to a code of conduct with a professional body.
“We also need to ensure there are effective forums whereby organisations can share good practice and it is also important to go beyond minimum standards and speak to young people about what they feel is ethical so future digital media that are yet to come, will reflect this.
“We will be consulting with our members to see how we can best help the computing profession demonstrate their commitment to this Code.”