Do you collect children’s data online? Then make sure you’re aware of your obligations
28th September 2020 by Edwina Bones
Children and technology; it’s a pairing that’s hard to split. In the modern world, it seems that toddlers can text before they can walk and woe betide the parent brave enough to try to get in-between their youngsters and their computers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs or any of the millions of other devices that are “essential” for the modern youth. It is inevitable that businesses are collecting more and more personal data about these youngsters as a result.
But a new lawsuit against YouTube shows how even the young (or at least their parents and guardians) are aware of their rights under data protection law and are prepared to enforce them. It is claimed that this well-known brand has been unlawfully collecting personal information from children without the required parental consent and harvesting their data for advertising purposes.
For those who are not aware, recent changes to data protection law have introduced new obligations on UK organisations when they collect, transfer or otherwise process the personal data of anyone under the age of 13. If an organisation is running a children’s chatroom, distributing an online newsletter or offering an app for youngsters or otherwise providing online services directly to children then they will very likely need to get the approval of the child’s parent or guardian before they collect or use the child’s information. This is something that the new class action claims YouTube has failed to do, and is claiming over £2.5 billion in damages as a result.
A YouTube spokesperson is reported to have said the platform is not for use by under-13s, and that it has created YouTube Kids for these individuals to use instead. It will be interesting to see whether this is accepted by the courts if this reaches trial. Others may argue that they only provide their online services to adults. But if an organisation’s marketing is aimed at children, it asks for an individual’s age but still allows it to visit a website or use / purchase a product even if they are under 13, or evidence suggests that a significant proportion of its clientele are children then the likelihood is that this type of defence just won’t cut it.
The bottom line is that if your business deals with children then you need to be aware of the steps that organisations now have to take under data protection law, otherwise you face the risk of becoming the next company to be fined, sued or facing bad publicity. Children’s data is being treated with extra care for a reason, after all they’re less likely to know the implications of what they’re doing when they hand over private information about themselves, so make sure you’re doing your bit to comply with the law and protect their data.
If you would like any further information about data protection then please contact Edwina Bones on email here or call 01202 205043.