Google announcement shows impact of Children’s Code

Power of regulation to change behaviour by tech firms continues to be felt

10 August 2021

Google have announced significant changes aimed at increasing protections for children on their services, including changes to search and YouTube. Today’s changes are a response to the Age Appropriate Design Code that will become UK law on 2nd September.  They show that no company however big is or should be beyond the law. Among the raft of changes announced today is that Google will stop targeted advertising to under 18’s. This takes children out of the business model. They will turn off auto-play on YouTube giving kids a chance to make a choice to watch (or not) the next video instead of automating their attention. All under 18s will be given safe search as a default, and it will become easy to request the removal of an image of a child from google search.

“These steps are only part of what is expected and is necessary, but they establish beyond doubt that it is possible to build the digital world that young people deserve, and that when government takes action, the tech sector can and will change.”

Baronness Kidron, 5Rights Chair

These announcements come on the back of recent changes announced by Tik Tok and Facebook, and we anticipate more announcements as the deadline for compliance with the Age Appropriate Design Code approaches.

These changes have been introduced ahead of such measures being required by law under the Age Appropriate Design Code (“the Children’s Code”), which comes into force in September. The Code is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, and sets out the specific protections that children require for their data, offering a high standard of data protection - by default. It was introduced into law as part of a cross-party amendment to the Data Protection Act 2018, and was led by the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”).


The Age Appropriate Design 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.

The Code will apply to all online services ‘likely to be accessed’ by all users under the age of 18, and requires such services to have regard both to the different capacity and needs of children at different ages and to the UK’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Spokespeople are available to comment on this announcement.

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