ICO Age Appropriate Design Code and how it affects dating services

The ICO has published it Age Appropriate Design: Code of Practice. The Code addresses children’s privacy online and takes a robust line on requiring high privacy settings, minimising the data collected, and capping the uses that can be made of this data. According to the ICO – “The code is a set of 15 flexible standards – they do not ban or specifically prescribe – that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child are the primary consideration when designing and developing online services.

Settings must be “high privacy” by default (unless there’s a compelling reason not to); only the minimum amount of personal data should be collected and retained; children’s data should not usually be shared; geolocation services should be switched off by default. Nudge techniques should not be used to encourage children to provide unnecessary personal data, weaken or turn off their privacy settings. The code also addresses issues of parental control and profiling.”

Dating services do not market to children, do not accept child users and have moderation and other tools to block any that do try to access services. As such it would be illogical to impose requirements on dating services in relation to users they do not seek, want or allow.

We are delighted this is recognised in the ICO messages accompanying their Code of Practice which tells online service providers to “take a common sense approach… If your service is the kind of service that you would not want children to use in any case, then your focus should be on how you prevent access (in which case this code does not apply), rather than on making it child-friendly. For example, if it is an adult only, restricted, or otherwise child-inappropriate service. This code should not lead to the perverse outcome of providers of restricted services having to make their services child-friendly.”

This is the case with dating services; something we explained in an ODA submission to an ICO consultation. George Kidd Chief Executive at the ODA said:

“We welcome the clear reasoning and explanation of when and why the Code will and will not apply. This is based on a concern regulation should be well targeted, proportionate and not result in poor unintended consequences. The approach is a reminder too to the dating sector as it evolves that we must continue to ensure children cannot access services.”