Under 18’s Face ‘Like’ and ‘Streak’ Limits on Social Media

Facebook and other social media companies face having to turn off the ‘like’ function for anyone under the age of 18 due to online safety regulations. It is thought that the ‘like’ button encourages children to build up their online profiles, often over-sharing information which is personal, and can also result in an unhealthy amount of time that children are spending online trying to achieve more ‘likes’.

The Information Commissioner’s Office suggested that social media networks could actually avoid the overall ban if they stopped collecting personal data when children engaged with them. ICO recommends that social networking sites make the following changes for under 18’s:

  • Make privacy settings ‘high’.
  • Switch location tracking off by default after the app is used.
  • Give children a choice in the personal data that they share – only the minimum amount of personal data should be collected.
  • Educate under 18’s more on how their personal data is being used.
  • Letting them know if parental controls are being used.
  • ‘Nudge’ techniques (such as having a bigger ‘yes’ option than ‘no’ on pop-ups) should not be used to encourage children to turn off privacy settings.

The proposal is part of a 16-rule code.

Baroness Beeban Kidron, chairwoman of the 5Rights Foundation, said the code represents “the beginning of a new deal between children and the tech sector”.

“For too long we have failed to recognise children’s rights and needs online, with tragic outcomes,” she said.

ICO have made it clear that the problem with the ‘likes’ feature is not the features themselves but how they are used to collect data and target children with advertising.

ICO have also identified that Snapchat uses these ‘nudge’ tools that encourage children to spend longer on social media through what they call a ‘streak’. A streak means that you and one of your snapchat friends have both snapped each other a picture or video within a 24 hour period for at least 3 consecutive days. Once you start a streak, a flame with a number will appear next to the name of the friend you have a streak with. ‘Streaks’ on Snapchat urges users to send photos to each other every day to achieve the reward of a streak icon next to their username, which encourage children to spend more time online than is desired.

Any social networks that do not comply with these new regulations could face fines of up to £17.2m under the General Data Protection Regulation. The ICO will publish the final version of the code on the 31st May 2019 and will subsequently be presented to parliament. Reports suggest that the final code will be introduced by the end of 2019.