Have your say on children's data protection rights!

05th February 2019

The internet is an intrinsic part of everyday life for each and every one of us – we use it for work, to read the latest news, to plan our commutes home, to keep in touch with friends, to book holidays, to do our banking, to buy clothes, the list goes on! And it’s not just adults inhabiting the online world – recent academic research highlights that under-18s make up an enormous one third of the world’s internet users, and the age at which children start accessing the web is becoming lower and lower. According to OfCom’s 2018 report, 52% of 3-4 year-olds spend almost nine hours per week online, while a whopping 99% of 12-15 year-olds are going online for approximately 20.5 hours per week. However, as child safety organisations such as the ISPCC have pointed out, these child users are often operating in a world that was not originally designed with them in mind and still fails to recognise them as key players.

Before 25 May 2018, child users of online and digital services in the EU were, for all intents and purposes, “invisible” from a data protection perspective. But children are very much front and centre of the data protection landscape since the GDPR came into play in May 2018, as it says that children merit specific protection because they may be less aware of the risks involved in relation to the processing of their personal data. One of the Data Protection Commission’s (DPC) most important tasks is to ensure that people are aware of the risks of consciously and unconsciously sharing their personal data, and understand the rights they have and the safeguards that they can take in relation to their personal data. And this is particularly important when it comes to the personal data of children and young people.

The DPC intends to create a series of guidance materials on children’s data protection issues, but before we do this, we want to hear the views of the public and industry alike on areas such as how and when children should be able to exercise their data protection rights for themselves; information given to children about the use of their personal data; the age of digital consent; and profiling and advertising/marketing activities concerning children.

For this reason, we are running a public consultation on the processing of children’s personal data and the rights of children as data subjects under the GDPR, but most importantly, we are opening up this consultation to both adults and children. Children have a fundamental right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to express their opinions on issues that affect them and for adults to listen to them and take their opinions seriously. The DPC intends to do just that and we’re very excited to be giving children and young people the opportunity to have their say in matters that relate specifically to them.

The first stream of this consultation was launched on 19 December 2018 in the form of an online consultation document and aims to collect the views of adult stakeholders on important data protection issues concerning children. The closing date for this stream is 1 March 2019. The second stream of the consultation, launched on international Data Protection Day (28 January 2019), aims to engage children and young people directly in the classroom. We have invited all schools and Youthreach centres nationwide to participate in this consultation using a lesson plan that we have specially designed. This will help teachers to deliver a lesson on personal data and data protection rights in a social media context, and to facilitate a discussion with their students where they can express their views on important issues. This stream of the consultation is open until 5 April 2019.

The feedback we receive from both streams of this consultation will help to shape the guidance that we ultimately create, so take this opportunity to join the discussion and have your say!

For more information on the adult stream, please click here, while further information on the children-focused stream can be found here.