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The internet is an essential part of modern day life and most adults are now used to the various ways in which companies can track, target and gather information on them online.

However, the internet was not created with children in mind, and most of us would not be comfortable with a company gathering information on our children in person. So how can we ensure that they have the same protections online that we take for granted in real life?

The Children’s Code (formally known as Age Appropriate Design Code) was developed by and will be enforced by the by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) via consultation with children, parents and carers, educators, developers and tech leaders and works to ensure that children are offered a certain level of protection online as standard.

The Children’s Code came into force as a statutory code of practice under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) on 2nd September 2020. The code has a 12 month transition period, allowing organisations until 2nd September 2021 to ensure that they conform to the code requirements.

The protections outlined by the Children’s Code are not limited to websites and include any online services ‘likely to be accessed by children in the UK’ such as: apps, online games, connected toys and devices, search engines, social media platforms and websites that offer goods, news or education services.

The code requires companies operating in the UK, among other things, to ensure that by default:

  • Optional use of personal data is switched ‘off’
  • Behavioural advertising is switched ‘off’
  • Privacy settings are set to ‘high
  • Data sharing is limited
  • Geo-location services are ‘off’

These settings can be changed by children or the adults supervising them (similar to cookie consent) but the code ensures that the necessary information, guidance and advice is available for them to make informed decisions before doing so.

For the purposes of the code, a ‘child’ is any person under 18, and for a service to be ‘likely’ accessed by a child, the possibility of this happening needs to be more probable than not. When considering how to ensure that an online service complies with the Children’s Code, companies should look at:

  • The nature and content of the service and if it has particular appeal for children
  • The way in which users access the service, and any measures in place to prevent children from accessing it

Mincoffs Solicitors’ expert commercial services department has experience advising clients on the Children’s Code and has assisted on its implementation. If your business provides online services that are likely to be accessed by children and would like advice on how to ensure compliance by 2nd September, call a member of the team on 0191 212 7773 or fill out the enquiry form below.

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