Consumer

Will your kids ever have privacy?

Will your kids ever have privacy?
September 7, 2015

Two out of three websites, designed for children as the audience, are collecting names and email addresses and then sharing them with other websites, according to new research.

TonyAnscombe
Security Evangelist

A study carried out by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN), involved over 29 privacy enforcement authorities in 21 countries. It found that only a third of websites had effective control of the information collected on our kids.

Understanding what happens to the personal information of your children needs to be high on the agenda of all parents. I’m not sure it’s understood due to the covert way that the data is being collected. Have you ever tried reading the privacy policy that accompanies websites and apps? if you haven’t then I am fairly certain your kids haven’t.

Imagine someone knocking on your door and asking for your child’s email address and access to their friends contact details. You would be shocked at the audacity of the request and send them away with nothing. When our kids go online or use apps, this very information is being given up without thought about what happens to it.

When something is free, such as an app or web service, it’s not because the company developing it is just being nice. Companies need to make money so that they can fund innovation that will keep us functional and entertained. One of the ways they can do that is by using our data. As consumers, especially when it’s our kids, we need to understand the trade off between free and acceptable data collection and use.

In a recent BBC article about the GPEN findings, Mr Adam Stevens, head of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “The most common concern domestically was a lack of information being provided about how their information would be used.”

The study identified concerns with 41% of the websites examined and that a minority of sites had an accessible way to allow families to delete data.

It’s important that we engage with our kids and teach them the value of their data. They need to understand how apps and services they’re accessing are using their personal data, and we need to guide them on what is acceptable usage.

Data breaches are now common place, and with vast amounts of personal data being collected and stored the consequences for our kids could be significant.

While I would not encourage kids to tell untruths, I might encourage them to have a modified set of data for use online, for example: their place of birth could be anywhere and the day of their birth does not need to be the real one, however their year and month of birth should not differ from reality as the reputable websites and apps deliver content that is age appropriate.

I personally have multiple email addresses: one for my serious stuff like banking and family communication, and an account that I can burn if it becomes compromised or I start getting too much spam. While this maybe a complicated thing for our kids to do, the principal behind this is something worth educating kids about.

Follow me on Twitter @TonyatAVG

Tony Anscombe
September 7, 2015


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