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The UK 'forces' services to comply with minor-friendly code with the help of ICO

The British kids are now in safe hands with digital services being 'forced' to comply with a kids-friendly design code.

UK digital authorities designed a code last year in September to work towards a digital space better fit for kids under 18. The design code was made for all digital services that catered to children below 18 years. Of course, the code couldn't be implemented right away hence these services were offered a grace period by the ICO, UK's data protection watchdog, of 12 months.

Finally, that grace period has come to an end resulting in the compliance of these services without complaints. Since the main purpose of this program is to help children from being tracked or profiled, we don't see how any service might argue against it. These services include everything that a kid might possibly be involved in from toys and games to educational services. It even includes retail stores and social media platforms where minors have a greater pull.

Let's talk a little about the pointers this code includes. Firstly, high privacy should be a top priority, meaning those profiles that belong to children or even are speculated to be operated by someone below the legal age should by default have certain features turned off like geolocation and profiling. We believe having them removed would be a much safer choice however there are some instances where a compelling enough case is presented where these need to be left on.

The code then includes an instruction for app makers to include a section where parents would be able to monitor their kids, similar to TikTok's parental controls launched last year. However with this platform's case the children knew about the watch but with the UK's code, children would be oblivious to the controls installed on their account due to which their parents would be able to keep a close eye on them rather silently.

Next we have a direct hit at the dark patterns developers engage young users in to potentially direct them towards unnecessary routes or things that might weaken their privacy webs. Although this code inclusive of 15 standard rules isn't a part of the legislature, it was certainly pressured by the ICO for app makers to include in their plans.

While app developers can easily avoid this code, seeing how no legal force is involved, it would result in a rather strict focus from the watchdog which would further conclude as a full time investigation regarding that service's protection system and we're sure not many companies want to go down that road. Those who do not comply with this code will also be accused of having disregarded the UK data protection law hence resulting in a biased view on the fairness and compliance of the service with the General Data Protection Regulation and Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulation.

The ICO also stated how social media platforms will be asked to provide proof of how they're complying with this code through their videos, posts, pictures, and such. Where needed, the ICO itself will get involved and make the necessary changes. As per the heads say, some of the biggest risks are identified amongst the social media platforms, gaming sites, and music - both auditory and visual. They also took a hit at the surveillance capitalism where advertisers use personal data of minors to bombard them with services that are bound to get their attention. Extracting personal data in any way for any kind of use will now be strictly prohibited for minors in the UK.

While the government indeed wants what's best for the children and the code is in compliance with their rights, they also want companies and services to follow them as well. This is why this code is more like a manual guiding these services towards children's rights to keep them psychologically, physically, and emotionally healthy.

Since the ICO's enforcement powers are no joke, we surely do see this code having no issues when it comes to compliance. With non-compliant services, we have the watchdog that can even ban or discontinue services that do not decide to abide. With the extensive grace period that was given, we're pretty sure services should have a smooth regulatory path by now


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