Earlier this year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a consultation on a draft code of practice for designing age-appropriate access for children accessing online services (Code). The consultation closed on 31 May 2019 but the ICO has recently released an update on its progress in producing the Code.

The finalised Code will be informed by more than 450 written responses and 40 meetings with key stakeholders during the consultation period.

In particular, processors in the tech, e-gaming and interactive entertainment industries should be on alert. The ICO’s update highlights that these industries may potentially face greater challenges with the introduction of the Code. The ICO is preparing a significant package of support for organisations to implement the Code, with specific help for designers and engineers.

The update also confirms that the Code will not segment the internet into age-related zones. To this end, the ICO “want[s] providers to set their privacy settings to ‘high’ as a default, and to have strategies in place for how children’s data is handled”. In particular, the Code will avoid creating barriers of access for children reading news content. The ICO believes that news plays a fundamental role in the lives of children.

The final version of the Code will be delivered to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport by 23 November 2019. This will be followed by a transition period of up to a year to allow organisations to bring their online products and services into compliance.

Comment

This update is useful in setting out the ICO’s initial thoughts on key issues that online providers should consider regarding children accessing their services. Although quite general, interested parties can review the ‘standards’ set out in the consultation for a better steer on the likely substance of the final Code. Firms in the tech, e-gaming and interactive entertainment industries should keep an eye out for the release of the Code by 23 November 2019. We look forward to receiving more substantive information from the ICO, in the form of either further updates or the finalised Code itself.