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UK Proposes Ending Social Media Likes For Kids; Is the US Next?

Ending Social Media Likes For Kids

The United Kingdom’s privacy authority has mentioned the idea of limiting children’s use of likes on social media outlets, calling it a “reinforcement technique.” The idea behind this would be that these artificial likes are what keep children glued to social media, and giving up their personal data.

In short, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner has called for numerous companies to stop urging and nudging young users into opting into settings allowing them to share their user data and stay engaged on the specific app for longer periods of time. Examples of this include making a “yes” button to agree to data sharing more attractive than its “no” button counterpart.

The regulator, though, also called out Facebook and Instagram’s “like” and Snapchat’s “Streak,” abilities, which are looked at as rewards for users, though they don’t truly hold any merit. These features simply engage users to stay on the app for longer periods of time.

Law 360 reports that the privacy watchdog suggested that such nudging techniques could violate part of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which provides children with special protections due to the likelihood that they are less aware of the risks and consequences of giving up their personal data.

The regulator appeared to take a wide view of what could qualify as a nudging technique, telling tech companies that “you should not use reward loops or similar techniques that seek to exploit human susceptibility to reward, or anticipatory and pleasure seeking behaviors in order to keep children engaged in your service to facilitate and maximize your collection of personal data.”

In a 16-part code of practices, the ICO also called for any company designing products, apps or platforms meant for children to put privacy settings on high by default. It also called for such companies to turn off consumer profiling and geolocation tracking by default, and to make it obvious when location tracking is active.

The ICO’s code also suggested that companies tailor their privacy notices to the age of the child, and to give children age-appropriate information if their products or platforms are being controlled or monitored by their parents. Children should also be provided with “prominent and accessible” online tools to exercise their rights and report concerns, the ICO said.

Companies can submit their thoughts on the proposed rules until May 31. The ICO expects some version of the rules, which it says will become an “international benchmark,” to be approved by the U.K. Parliament and go into effect by the end of the year.

“This is the connected generation,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement. “The internet and all its wonders are hardwired into their everyday lives. We shouldn’t have to prevent our children from being able to use it, but we must demand that they are protected when they do.”

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