The digital world has its pros and cons. With so much going on online, it is all the more difficult for privacy experts to ensure complete protection of user data. And when it comes to breaches of a child’s data, the consequences can be detrimental as we face higher stakes across the board.
But which nations make sure your child’s data is safe with their collection restrictions? Also, do all nations require parental consent before acquiring the data? More importantly, don’t all nations of the world place the same importance on children’s data as they place on adult data?
Well, all of these questions are addressed in a recent report where Comparitech researchers explore the different legislations available in 50 different countries. On top of that, the researchers also explored what it’s really like to have additional security protocols in place when handling information about children. This includes an overview of the role different governments play in this and how they differ from companies known to be involved.
The report was comprehensive and gave a range of alarming conclusions. For starters, only 18 out of 50 countries had no legislation in place to handle children’s data. Likewise, it was interesting to note how 32 had clearly defined in their protection laws how children’s data should be protected.
But with that came more shocking statistics about how every nation had its fair share of loopholes in terms of government legislation in place for children’s online data. More importantly, five of the countries enlisted had gone so far as to exempt their governments from involvement.
None of the countries included in the study prevented government regulators from assessing the seriousness of the situation. But only three countries had strict protocols in place that assessed third parties in terms of sharing children’s data. Of these, China is to be applauded for taking the lead in preventing easy access to any child’s data.
Of the various nations surveyed, only 19 had rules in place to profile minors. And of these, we have seen how only one of them has banned it as a whole, namely Ireland. It was also interesting to see how the majority of places had rules on ads where the main target was minors and of these, only Brazil completely inhibited it.
And only France has actually taken an additional step to include children in the taking of consent, alongside the parent of course.
As mentioned earlier, the study proved that only 32 different countries were actively involved in sending legislation protecting children’s data online. However, not all offered the same level of security as the others.
Some were significantly better than others and that’s why they came out on top. Yes, no nation was perfect and they all need big improvements, but we have to start somewhere. Therefore, the research rated the countries with a score of 44.
France tops the list with the highest score of 34.5. And that means it has beaten many of its EU neighbors by a slight margin that needs to be pointed out. The most important point worth mentioning is how France takes the time to also include children’s consent with their parents along the way.
The law was passed as part of the country’s data protection law which clearly defines joint consent if a child is under 15. And that means in simple terms that a parent’s wishes will not conflict or go against those of their child. Keeping in mind today’s digital age, many find such battery life to be a major benefit.
Overall, nations that are part of the EU, plus the UK, scored 32.5. We have seen Switzerland benefit the most from the comprehensive GDPR legislation which deserves a special mention for data protection.
This law clearly specifies what is the protection and the importance of parental consent in this matter. This includes a number of different rights, such as those related to access, deletion and modification of data on children’s profiles and strict control of advertisements.
However, the GDPR fell a bit behind in terms of profiling minors and the fact that no restrictions were specifically in place when it came to encrypting a child’s data. And this is the difference with Switzerland. Although the GDPR limits it in some respects, it still values the consent of the child and is therefore generally assessed as if there were no major rules surrounding children’s data.
Another interesting clash was Saudi Arabia who scored 31.5. All this thanks to the clear and detailed procedures put in place for the protection of children’s data. Surprisingly, this country has never stood out for its data protection in general, scoring below the belt on several occasions. But when it comes to kids, they’re in a whole different league.
Yes, it does not profile minors and has some restrictions for ads that target them, it goes beyond the EU GDPR and it concerns third parties and the strictness with which they are treated when collecting data.
Each nation has plenty of room for improvement, falling short in several categories. Let’s look at the United States, which scored 29.5. The researchers pointed out that there is no emphasis on data protection for minors and that this is a major concern. Fortunately, the COPPA Act of 1998 helped put in place general protective laws for children, but there is more than can be done. This includes parental consent whenever data is to be processed for children under 13. That said, about 500 different apps on Google’s Play Store have violated COPPA.
China, although notorious for violating the rights of its citizens, has excellent policies in place for children. And it’s all thanks to new rules introduced in 2019, giving the country a score of 28.5. But China is lacking in some areas like where regulations don’t extend beyond commercial and general websites. Similarly, we don’t see any checks in place for guardians during the consent process. The nation excels in the detailed protocols that data collectors use to obtain and process information.
There is undoubtedly a lot of room for improvement, as the research emphasizes how different countries need to be clearer with their regulations regarding children’s data. In this way, there is little or no room for abuse or any interpretation.
Nations that treat adults the same as their children need to re-evaluate their protocols. And common examples that fall in this regard include India, Canada, Argentina, and Australia.
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