Two big steps forward for young people's rights online

This week, there have been two big steps forward for young people’s rights online, globally and in the UK.

First, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released the draft of a General Comment on Children’s Rights in relation to the Digital World. This General Comment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) for the first time confirms that children’s rights exist in the digital world. The UNCRC is the most-ratified human rights treaty in history and the General Comment requires countries to realise and uphold young people’s rights equally in the digital world as offline.

Over the last 12 months, 5Rights Foundation has supported the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child through the drafting process. Our steering group, led by Professor Sonia Livingstone has worked with experts from all around the world, held workshops and supported a young people’s consultation, led by Professor Amanda Third, with over 700 young people from 26 countries.

The General Comment has been released for global, public consultation around the final text. We welcome and invite people to contribute to the consultation process. Consultation details can be found at the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website.

Secondly, in the UK, the Information Commissioner has now issued the Age Appropriate Design Code. The Code is the first of its kind anywhere in the world: a statutory code of practice setting out the specific protections that young people require for their data, and forcing companies to provide a much higher level of privacy protection by default.

Data protection has been central to 5Rights work since the passing of the Data Protection Act in 2018. We are delighted that the code is now due to come into force on 2 September. Companies which provide digital services to young people now have a set of clear statutory rules which must be followed whenever they collect or process their data.

This is a step along the road to our policy call for child impact assessments which would require companies to assess the risks their services may pose to young people before they are rolled out. We will be working on this further as the UK’s Online Harms Bill approaches.

More information on the Age Appropriate Design Code can be found on the Information Commissioner’s website.