The ICO Children’s Code, a statutory code that will mandate organisations to make changes to online products and services to include enhanced privacy protections for children, has come into force today in the UK.

Launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), it gives organisations 12 months to implement the code in their products.

The Age Appropriate Design Code or ‘Children’s Code’ applies to organisations providing apps, games and websites that children up to age 18 are considered “likely” to access. This includes social media platforms popular with children, meaning that many leading services, including TikTok and YouTube, will need to comply.

Developers will be required to meet to 15 standards to ensure such online products and services comply with data protection law, with the code mandating a minimum standard that will apply to their design.

The ICO argues that this new design-led approach is an important milestone in protecting children at home, particularly when reliance on online services during the Covid-19 pandemic is high.

“This code makes clear that kids are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections,” said Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner.

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“We want children to be online, learning and playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place.”

How the ICO Children’s Code will apply

The ICO Children’s Code is risk-based, meaning that not all organisations will be impacted equally.

Those responsible for products and services that are more likely to be accessed by children and that use, analyse and profile their data will be required to take greater action. Social media platforms, educational websites, online games, streaming services and apps are expected to be the most severely hit.

Failure to comply within the 12-month period could lead to serios enforcement action by the ICO.

The organisation is also offering support to businesses on how to comply, as well as launching a toolkit of resources to assist with the transition.

Businesses developing innovative approaches to personal data handling are also encouraged to apply for a place in its regulatory Sandbox.

Read more: ICO publishes guidance on AI and data protection