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Children ‘safer online now than a year ago because of safety code’

·2-min read

Children online today are “better protected” than they were a year ago, the Information Commissioner has said as he marked the first anniversary of the Age Appropriate Design Code being introduced.

Rolled out in September last year, the so-called Children’s Code put in place new data protection codes of practice for online services likely to be accessed by children, built on existing data protection laws, with financial penalties a possibility for serious breaches.

Information Commissioner John Edwards said the code had sparked a change in behaviour from tech giants, noting that several had changed a range of policies around things such as ad targeting of younger users and video autoplay since the code had been rolled out.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it was currently looking into how more than 50 different online services were conforming with the code, with four ongoing investigations – it said it had also audited nine organisations and was currently assessing their outcomes.

Mr Edwards said the ICO was now looking to evolve its approach further to ensure the code continued to have the maximum impact.

“We’ve seen real changes since the Children’s Code came into force a year ago. These changes come as a result of the ICO’s action enforcing the code, making clear to industry the changes that are required,” he said.

“The result is that children are better protected online in 2022 than they were in 2021.

“This code makes clear that children are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections. We want children to be online, learning, playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place to do so.

“There’s more for us to achieve. We are currently looking into a number of different online services and their conformance with the code as well as ongoing investigations. And we’ll use our enforcement powers where they are required.”