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UK lays out standards for handling children's data

Information Commissioner finalizes Age Appropriate Design Code with 15 standards for developers to meet

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office this week published the final version of its Age Appropriate Design Code, a collection of 15 standards to protect children's privacy that will apply to online games as well as apps, connected toys, social media platforms, streaming services, and educational websites.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham noted that the code is not a new law, but rather lays out how the General Data Protection Regulation laws apply to children.

"The code is a set of 15 flexible standards - they do not ban or specifically prescribe - that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn, and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child are the primary consideration when designing and developing online services," Denham said.

The standards include using high privacy settings and geolocation features off by default, collecting the minimum amount of data necessary, not sharing children's data, and not using nudge techniques to get children to give more data or relax the privacy settings.

"I believe companies will want to conform with the standards because they will want to demonstrate their commitment to always acting in the best interests of the child. Those companies that do not make the required changes risk regulatory action," Denham said. "What's more, they risk being left behind by those organisations that are keen to conform."

The code must now go to Parliament for approval. If it passes without objection, game publishers and other companies will have a 12-month transition period to ensure they are compliant with all of the standards.

UK games industry trade group UKIE released a statement on the news, saying, "UKIE welcome the steps the ICO have taken to ensure that a proportionate, risk-based approach is applied to the safety of children's data through the Age Appropriate Design Code."

It added, "We look forward to working with the ICO to gain further clarity on how some aspects of the code will apply in practice to ensure it takes into account the diversity of businesses of all shapes and sizes in the UK's vibrant games sector."

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