On January 21, 2020, the UK ICO published the final version of its Age Appropriate Design Code (the “Design Code”), which sets out 15 standards that online services should meet to protect children’s privacy. The Design Code is not only applicable to online services squarely aimed at children, but also covers online services likely to be accessed by children.
Amongst the 15 standards covered, the Design Code contains sections on:
- What companies need to consider in order to protect the best interests of children in the design of online services.
- Undertaking Data Protection Impact Assessments to assess and mitigate risks to the rights and freedoms of children who are likely to access the service.
- ‘Age appropriate application’, which means that different needs of children at different stages of development should be taken into account when designing the service and applying the Design Code. This section also provides guidance on how users’ ages can be established with an appropriate level of certainty, while taking into account the principle of data minimization.
- Profiling, including the use of privacy settings (e.g., in the context of behavioral advertising), compliance with cookie consent rules, and the use of appropriate measures to safeguard children (in particular from inappropriate content).
The Design Code also includes an annex setting out various age and developmental brackets together with key considerations aimed at helping providers of online services assess what is appropriate for each bracket.
The Design Code will primarily be of interest to companies regulated by the UK ICO, which will be obliged to take the Design Code into account when considering whether an online service complies with general data protection or ePrivacy rules. However, the guidance is also useful to organizations outside of the UK, given the emphasis placed on protecting children’s interests across various sections of the GDPR and in regulatory guidance at an EU level.
The Design Code can be accessed from the following link. It will come into force approximately two months after being laid before the UK parliament, and will provide for a transition period of 12 months, to give online services time to conform. At the time of writing, the UK ICO anticipates that the Design Code will come into full force by autumn 2021.