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First of its kind: a code of practice for tech companies to protect children online

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Photo provided by 5Rights Foundation

5Rights Foundation in the UK has been working to improve a digital world, that is risky by design for children. A big component of its work focuses on protecting children online. However, many governments have yet to implement appropriate laws for the protection of children from risky online content and contact. 

5Rights believes that advocating for the rights of children in the digital space is crucial, since the collection, sharing and use of children’s data by tech companies shapes not only children’s digital experiences, but also their lives beyond the digital world. Consider, for example, that when a child uses GPS location services – which are part of many of the digital platforms and applications we use in our everyday life – data about that child’s current or predicted location can be collected, sold or shared. Therefore, it can be dangerous when tech companies treat children’s data no differently than they treat the data of their adult users. 

That is why 5Rights has been advocating for legislation that would mandate tech companies to protect children’s privacy on their platforms. In August 2020 it achieved an important victory when the UK Information Commissioner issued the Age Appropriate Design Code, which offers children specific protection online. 5Rights was highly active during the consultation process on the Code. First, in 2018, Baroness Beeban Kidron, the Chair of 5Rights, introduced, with cross-party support, an amendment to the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018. The Code was brought before the UK Parliament in June 2020, consisting of 15 standards that provide built-in protection for children on digital platforms, applications and websites. The Information Commissioner issued the Code in August 2020 and it came into force on 2 September.  

To ensure that those at the heart of this Code – children – were engaged and informed, 5Rights worked closely with children and published a child-friendly resource explaining how the Code seeks to protect them. This statutory code of practice is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. It could serve as a much-needed ‘best-practice’ reference for stakeholders across the world that seek to influence tech policy to ensure that children’s safety and rights online are protected.  

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (PCSA) programme, and within that our priority funding area of safe digital environments, that works to support advocacy and regulation of the online space to protect children from sexual abuse.  

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