UK Regulator: Stop Pushing Kids Into Apps


The U.K.’s tech regulator, the ICO, wants companies like Facebook and Snap to stop enticing kids to their websites and apps.

According to The Financial Times, the new regulation aims to protect the privacy of users under 18, covering apps, connected toys, social media platforms, online games, educational websites and streaming services. The law is expected to go into effect this year.

One component of the U.K. regulation is a ban on “nudge techniques” that lead users into further engagement, such as Facebook’s “like” button or Snap’s “streaks.”

“You should not exploit unconscious psychological processes (such as associations between certain colors or imagery and positive outcomes, or human affirmation needs) to this end,” the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) code said.

“Reward loops or positive reinforcement techniques (such as likes and streaks) can also nudge or encourage users to stay actively engaged with a service, allowing the online service to collect more personal data,” the report added.

Companies that do not follow the guidelines could be fined under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), up to €20 million or 4 percent of its global revenue, whichever is larger. In response to GDPR going into effect last year, WhatsApp has already banned users under the age of 16, while Snap reduced the data it collects on minors who use its site.

But lawmakers are still worried that social media companies are able to access and collect large amounts of data about teenagers without their understanding, or any parental oversight. With that in mind, the guidelines would ensure that companies introduce “high privacy” settings by default for children, as well as stop collecting location data on minors.

However, businesses could profile children if they are able to “demonstrate a compelling reason for profiling, taking account of the best interests of the child.”

In response, Facebook said it had stricter default privacy settings for teenagers and “additional behind-the-scenes protection.”


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