- Web giants have been warned against harvesting data from under 16s
- Companies have been told they face huge fines for collating data from kids
- The government is pushing through an amendment to the Data Protection Bill
Google, Facebook and other web giants could be told to stop collecting information about children under 16 who use their websites – or face huge fines.
The technology giants routinely collect vast amounts of data about all users – such as their location and which other websites they visit.
However, they could be effectively barred from collecting this sort of information about youngsters under radical plans to stop them exploiting children online.
Web giants face ‘huge fines’ if they continue to collect tracking data of children under 16
In theory, it means parents whose children sign up to Facebook could rest assured that their data settings were automatically at the most secure level.
And they could leave their young children using Snapchat, comfortable in the knowledge that it is not covertly tracking their every move.
The sweeping changes are being pushed through Parliament in the form of an amendment to the Data Protection Bill and will face a Lords vote on Monday.
If they are accepted, technology giants will be told to sign up to a new code of conduct, ensuring websites automatically give children the maximum privacy settings.
Social media giants may face fines if they continue to collect data on children under 16
The code – which would be overseen by the Information Commissioner’s Office – would also be likely to force the technology giants to explain their privacy policies in terms that children understand, and to make it very clear to children when the content they see is actually advertising.
The ICO would have the power to fine the firms 4 per cent of their turnover if it breached data rules, and would regard the code as a ‘relevant factor’. Fines could run to tens of millions of pounds.
Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: ‘Our internet safety strategy sets out how we want the UK to be the safest place to be online.’
The NSPCC praised the move but expressed dismay that the code is not obligatory. The charity’s Tony Stower said: ‘The law finally recognises that children should not be treated as adults in the online world… but frustratingly Government has stopped short of making these rules mandatory.’