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Of course I'm over 18 - Age Appropriate Design

We don’t like to scare monger, but you really need to know about this one as it’s going to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. This won’t just be about applying existing UK Law to the internet, it will likely include new regulations on social media usage generally too.

The Information Commissioner’s Office closed, its consultation period on a new code: “Age Appropriate Design” on the 31st of May 2019,. Quite a few people are a little annoyed at how short the consultation period was, but this is likely because the ICO are generally expected to want to roll this out before the end of 2019 (perhaps to show up the EU’s GDPR framework and ensure that Brexit blues don’t inhibit the flow of personal data through the UK). The key points were these – and they merit reading, because they are likely to require significant work by developers and technology businesses over the next six months (ish) and failing to prepare now really will be preparing to fail as the ICO has warned that it will be enforcing it right away and the code can be used as evidence in court if required.

Age verification is currently a joke, that’s a problem. The internet is not entirely safe for Children, an understatement. The solution? The ICO says that if your services are likely to be accessed by Children (whether Children are your key demographic OR NOT) then all privacy settings need to be set to their highest (most private) by default unless and until you can prove that a particular user is not a Child. A simple “are you 18” “Yes/No” will not be good enough for this purpose and that begs that question of who/how and where are we going to keep data about children on a mass scale in order to verify this? (We’d rather not rely any more than we already have to on Facebook to verify our personal information thank you very much.)

Whilst there is talk of trying to cap the internet activity of Children (e.g. limiting the number of “likes” Children get to use in a given period for example) and the objectives seem virtuous, we have concerns about how this will be implemented and enforced in practice. If the ICO are taking this opportunity to lead the rest of the world toward a brighter and safer future, it can’t be a rush job and must be done properly, otherwise the giants of the social media industry will have something to point to and say “See! We told you it wouldn’t work, let’s not try that again”.

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