A top regulator in the United Kingdom is planning to toughen up new rules to protect children from being exploited by tech firms, including imposing a ban on under-18s “liking” posts on Facebook or being rewarded with Snapchat “streaks.”
Today, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published a proposed “Code of Practice” to protect the privacy of children online. The most radical proposal is imposing a ban on the use of “nudge” psychology for under-18s online.
“Nudge” theory was developed by a Nobel Prize-winning economist. It uses human psychology to encourage certain behaviours. It has been successfully utilised to encourage things like organ or blood donation.
However, the ICO, which aims to protect the privacy rights of individuals in the United Kingdom, is concerned that tech firms use the nudge theory to get people hooked on their platforms. Examples include features such as Facebook ‘likes” or ‘streaks’ on Snapchat which are considered a reward for when people frequently send photos to people on the app.
The report stated: “Reward loops or positive reinforcement techniques (such as likes and streaks) can nudge or encourage users to stay actively engaged with a service, allowing the online service to collect more personal data.”
In a statement, the ICO’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said: “This is the connected generation. 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. This code does that.”
The proposed ban on the nudges is considered as one of 16 principals that are proposed in the new “Code of Practice.” Others include switching location tracking off by default, not sharing any of the data collected on users who are under 18 and default high privacy settings for children.
Tech firms that violate these new rules could be fined up to 4 percent of their global turnover or a maximum of €20m (£17.25m).