ASI responds to ICO's Age-appropriate design code

Today the Information Commissioner’s Office announced a consultation on a draft ‘Code of Practice to help protect children online’.

The code forbids the creation of profiles on children, and bans data sharing and ‘nudges’ of children. Importantly, the code also requires everyone be treated like a child unless they undertake ‘robust age-verification’.

The ASI believes that this code will entangle start-ups in red tape, and inevitably end up with everyone being treated like children, or face undermining user privacy by requiring the collection of credit card details or passports for every user.

Matthew Lesh, Head of Research at free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, says:

“This is an unelected quango introducing draconian limitations on the internet with the threat of massive fines.

“This code requires all of us to be treated like children.

“An internet-wide age verification scheme, as required by the code, would seriously undermine user privacy. It would require the likes of Facebook, Google and thousands of other sites to repeatedly collect credit card and passport details from millions of users. This data collection risks our personal information and online habits being tracked, hacked and exploited.

“There are many potential unintended consequences. The media could be forced to censor swathes of stories not appropriate for young people. Websites that cannot afford to develop ‘children-friendly’ services could just block children. It could force start-ups to move to other countries that don’t have such stringent laws.

“This plan would seriously undermine the business model of online news and many other free services by making it difficult to target advertising to viewer interests. This would be both worse for users, who are less likely to get relevant advertisements, and journalism, which is increasingly dependent on the revenues from targeted online advertising.

“The Government should take a step back. It is really up to parents to keep their children safe online.

If you have any questions or wish to arrange an interview with Matthew Lesh please contact ASI media line on 07584778207 or via info@adamsmith.org.