Irish children may have unwittingly provided online advertising companies with more than 70 million different pieces of information by the time they reach the age of 13.
There are calls for increased online protections for children as the average amount of screentime continues to rise.
The UKs Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) yesterday announced a new code of practice obliging all apps, social media platforms and games that are targeted at children to put privacy at the heart of their design.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Newstalk Tech Correspondent Jess Kelly spoke to Dylan Collins, CEO of internet safety company SuperAwesome, to find out more about the protections in place for children in Ireland.
He said children now represent about 40% of all new internet users and noted that it is “quite a dangerous idea for that level of personal data to be gathered in children and to be floating around the internet.”
“We have actually done some research on this and we have seen that, by the time the child is 13 which is usually when they are legally allowed to use a lot these services, just the advertising technology companies alone might have gathered somewhere north of 70 million different pieces of information on that child just because of their day to day browsing,” he said.
“Obviously with the school shutdown and lockdown associated with COVID, children’s screen time has doubled – in some cases, it has tripled – so that is dramatically increasing the amount of personal information that is being harvested, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, by all of these companies, so it really is a major issue.”
He said the new UK guidelines highlight how child protections can go beyond standard privacy rules and focus on the way apps are built.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Deputy Data Commissioner Graham Doyle told Jess that best practice guidelines for companies working on children’s technology will be published by the end of the month.
“There is not going any one point in time where we say OK, it is all sorted now,” he said. “This is something that is constant and is ongoing.
“Our guidance document will be produced by the end of this month and then we will be working towards driving the companies themselves to draw up these codes of conduct.
“If you look at some of the submissions that were made to us by the big tech platforms, they have already highlighted the fact that they would very much welcome a code of conduct being produced in this area.”
You can listen back to the full report from Jess Kelly here: