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United Kingdom: Proposals for Greater Online Protection for Children

(Dec. 14, 2017) The Government of the United Kingdom has recently proposed an amendment to the Data Protection Bill to provide for greater protection for the privacy of children who engage in online activities. The Data Protection Bill is currently progressing through Parliament and will implement the European Union’s Data Protection Directive, which will apply in the UK from May 2018. If enacted, the new proposals will form part of the government’s Internet Safety Strategy, and the Information Commissioner will be required to produce a statutory code of practice. The code of practice will set out the standards that website and app designers must follow to integrate “tailored protections” to provide privacy for children under 16 years of age. (Data Protection Bill 2017, HL Bill 74; Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the Protection of Natural Persons with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data, and Repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) art. 4(1), 2016 O.J. (L 119) 1.)

The aim of this code is to prevent children’s online activities from being monitored; there has been a push for this from a cross-party campaign after it was highlighted how companies, particularly social media companies, collected and used children’s personal information, including address, phone number, photographs, and location data. (Jessica Elgot, Tough Code of Practice for Websites Will Aim to Protect Children Online, GUARDIAN (London)  (Dec. 8, 2017).)

The amendment would provide that websites and apps must be clear in what personal data is being collected, how it is used, and how both children and parents may control the data. Failing to follow the code of practice could be considered by the Information Commissioner when deciding whether or not to bring enforcement action against a website for failing to comply with the Data Protection Bill and could also be considered a factor when determining the level of fine to be imposed(Children to Be Given Extra Protection Online, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport website (Dec. 11, 2017); HM Government, Internet Safety Strategy – Green Paper, GOV.UK (Oct. 2017).) If these provisions of the Bill are enacted, a draft code of practice will be presented to Parliament within 18 months after the Bill enters into force.  (Elgot, supra.)