ICO Calls for Social Media Sites to Remove ‘Like’ Button

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Social media sites such as Snapchat and Facebook may be forced to remove the ‘like’ button function for British children. 

Proposed guidelines, created by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) say features such as ‘like’ buttons and Snapchat streaks encourage young people to stay online for longer.

The ICO has put forward a draft code comprised of 16 online standards which social media companies should abide by. As well as removing these features, the ICO recommends that privacy settings be, by default, set to the highest level, unless there is a compelling reason not to.

The draft code says that companies should not collect unnecessary personal data. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “This is the connected generation. The internet and all its wonder 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.”

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The ICO also recommended that applications switch off location tracking by default, and should clearly inform the child when their location is being tracked. It also said privacy information and policies must be conveyed in a concise and clear way, suited to the age of the child.

Welcoming the move, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said social media sites “continually failed to prioritise child safety in their design” resulting in tragic consequences.

Andy Burrows, head of child online safety at the NSPCC, said: “That’s why it is vital this code requires children to be given the highest privacy settings by default and forces firms to act in the best interest of children.”

Similarly, Baroness Beeband Kidron, chairwoman of 5rights Foundation, also said that social media companies have failed to recognise the rights and needs of children online.

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Critics of the draft code have argued that parents are the ones responsible for ensuring that their children are safe online. Unimpressed with the proposed privacy changes, Matthew Lesh, head of research for the Adam Smith Institute, said: “The ICO is an unelected quango introducing draconian limitations on the internet with the threat of massive fines.

“It is ridiculous to infantilise people and treat everyone as children.”

The consultation will conclude at the end of May, with the final draft of the code expected to come into effect by 2020.



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