Baroness Beeban Kidron, Chair, 5Rights, on the ICO’s response to 5Rights research into Code breaches

Last month, 5Rights submitted research to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) identifying widespread breaches of the Age Appropriate Design Code across the tech sector. In a letter to the ICO’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, we urged the ICO to investigate these areas of concern to drive compliance with the Code.

Today we welcome Elizabeth Denham’s response and the next steps outlined by the ICO. 5Rights Chair, Baroness Beeban Kidron, said:

“Robust compliance with the Age Appropriate Design Code will make digital services safer and fairer for children. The recent revelations from Frances Haugen have brought to life what is a sector-wide disregard for the privacy, wellbeing, and safety of children. The Age Appropriate Design Code was conceived as a ’safety by design’ regulatory model in which companies assess and mitigate risk before they engage with children.

“The changes made to the products and services earlier this year — from safe search, to changes in direct messaging of children by strange adults, to advertising, to the introduction of a whole raft of wellbeing measures — has shown that compliance is both possible and meaningful. But the code is not a pick and mix — its 15 standards are interdependent and cumulative in keeping children safe.

“In the course of conducting our research, the team at 5Rights identified 12 areas of persistent failure and, as set out in a letter, asked the Information Commissioner to take action to ensure that all companies “likely to be accessed” by children comply with all of the Code’s requirements. Today we are delighted that she has made that commitment and that the ICO is taking action in the spring.

“The Commissioner’s letter today is a warning to those companies that continue to have a profound disregard for children’s protections under the Age Appropriate Design Code, and we will consider making further formal complaints about those companies that fail to heed it.”