Age Appropriate Design: new code of practice regarding online services for children from the UK Information Commissioner

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has published a new code of practice for online services directed to children, Age appropriate design: A code of practice for online services. The new code sets 15 flexible standards and gives specific explanations of how the GDPR applies to childrens’ online activities and pursuits. The code is not a new law, but accountability measures are designed into the code via measures already contained in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

In crafting the code, the ICO rooted their work in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). According the the ICO, the code is the first of its kind, and is on par with the overall direction that childrens’ privacy reforms in other jurisdictions are taking, as well as work at the OECD. One notable innovation in the code is a principle regarding “nudges.” Here, the code describes a nudge: “Nudge techniques are design features which lead or encourage users to follow the designer’s preferred paths in the user’s decision making.” The code goes into detail on the specifics of how GDPR applies to “nudges,” and gives very specific developmental examples of appropriate nudges for children. The nudges should be pro-privacy, and enhance childrens’ health and well-being. Nudges should not encourage children to lie about their age, or be used to encourage children to select more permissive privacy settings.

The ICO’s code is thoughtful, and reflects a great deal of input from many stakeholders. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, in introducing the code, wrote: 

“A generation from now, I believe we will look back and find it peculiar that online services weren’t always designed with children in mind.

When my grandchildren are grown and have children of their own, the need to keep children safer online will be as second nature as the need to ensure they eat healthily, get a good education or buckle up in the back of a car.”

The new Code of Conduct for children will be brought before the UK Parliament, and is expected to go into effect in 2021. 

ICO Code of Conduct —  Age Appropriate Design: A code of practice for online services  22 Jan. 2020