New ICO Age Appropriate Design Code: Implications for News Publishers

The new ICO Age Appropriate Design Code has implications for online news publishers. Read the FAQs below to discover how the new Code may affect your website.

>> Are you an IMPRESS member? See information about our upcoming informative webinar below. 


What is this new ICO code about; and how is it relevant to your work?

The code is a set of 15 flexible standards 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.

If you can demonstrate to the ICO that you conform to these standards, then you will conform to the Code. The standards are cumulative and interlinked and you must implement them all, to the extent that they are relevant to your service.

Some of the standards are service-specific and are unlikely to apply to news gathering and news websites, such as Standard 11 on Parental Controls and Standard 14 on Connected Toys and Devices. However, some standards are broad and will be relevant to your work, such as Standard 4 on Transparency, which requires that your privacy information (which you provide to users, and other published terms, policies and community standards) be concise, prominent and in clear language suited to the age of the child, and should include ‘bite-sized’ explanations about how you use personal data.


What does this new Code mean for online news publishers?

Conforming to this code will ensure that if your organisation provides online services that may be accessed by children in the UK, you take into account the best interests of the child. IMPRESS publishers that provide online services, e.g. a website, must comply.

PLEASE NOTE: this Code does not apply to PRINT publications or publishers that use OTHER SERVICE PROVIDERS to deliver news (e.g. YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok).

How this will impact on you depends on what type of services you provide on your website, and how much data about anyone under the age of 18 you collect and control. For example, do you offer newsletter or subscription services, have you enabled web-tracking technology, or do you host third-party advertising? If you do any of these, you will have to comply with the Code.

The Code also says that profiling must be switched off by default for child users, or all users if age is not established. Valid GDPR and PECR consent and transparency for cookies will allow this profiling for advertising to be ‘switched on’.

Standard 3 requires that if you are not certain and cannot establish for certain the age of those who use your website and services, then you must universally apply the standards in the Code to all of your users.


When does the Code come into effect?

You have 12 months to implement the requirements of the new Code; organisations should conform by 2 September 2021.


How will the Code be enforced?

After 2 September 2021, the ICO will begin to enforce the Code. The ICO proactively monitor and apply a proportionate enforcement response. They will target their most significant powers on organisations and individuals suspected of repeated or wilful misconduct or serious failure to comply with the law. For serious breaches of the data protection principles, the ICO have the power to issue fines of up to €20 million (or £17.5 million when the UK GDPR comes into effect) or 4% of your annual worldwide turnover, whichever is higher.


What about news content on news websites?

For media services that already comply with existing self-regulatory Codes (such as through IMPRESS membership) there should be no impact on the news content they provide.


How does the IMPRESS Standards Code & Arbitration scheme interact with this new ICO code?

The IMPRESS Standards Code does contain a Code clause on Children which requires publishers to strike the right balance between protecting children from exploitation and granting them a voice in the media, while allowing for exceptional cases in which the public interest requires reporting on a child in a way that would normally breach the Code. IMPRESS will accept complaints about potential breaches of this Clause in relation to all aspects of news gathering activity, not just the content you publish.

Similarly, the IMPRESS Arbitration scheme covers disputes concerning data protection and allows individuals to access low-cost redress this way. If someone wishes to make a claim against you for breach of the ICO Age Appropriate Design Code, IMPRESS will assess if it is suitable for arbitration.


Are you an IMPRESS member?

We strongly recommend all IMPRESS members join the ICO-IMPRESS webinar for more information about the Code and its implications to your news site. This webinar will take place on the 6th of October, 2:00-4:00pm.

Email to register.