Brands brace for change as Australia moves towards stricter kids data protection

ACCC and TotallyAwesome call for parental consent when collecting children’s data 

Sydney, Australia (AUG 2019) Ninety-five percent of Aussie parents are worried about their children’s exposure on social networks. The Kids’ Digital Insights Study conducted by kid-centric digital media company TotallyAwesome late last year found a whopping 89 percent of parents are worried about their kids’ safety on social media. Among their key concerns are  inappropriate content, cyberbullying and lack of privacy protection. Kids, themselves, are also very much worried about their personal information being shared online, found a recent survey by the company. The results were much higher than anticipated, observed TotallyAwesome’s Chief Operating Officer, Marcus Herrmann. 

On 29 July 2019, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) presented its final report on the Digital Platforms Inquiry. TotallyAwesome participated in the inquiry and submitted a proposal with several recommendations to better protect Australian kids online. In its 623-page document, the ACCC called for more regulation on data collection, content delivery, transparency on how companies are using data, and stronger protection against privacy rules, especially where children’s data is collected. It also raised flags on possible anti-competitive practices through the dominance of global tech giants Facebook and Google.

The record notes that Facebook and Google dominate the digital sphere with Australians spending 20.5 percent of their time online on Google-owned sites such as YouTube and Google search and 18.6 percent on Facebook and its owned platforms like Instagram. And it is rightly cautious about the data collected by them. TotallyAwesome’s research found 90 percent of children between the ages of 4-12 have claimed to be on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, jumping the age-gate of 13 and above set by the digital entities.

More control over children’s data

TotallyAwesome welcomes the ACCC’s recommendations for greater protection of minors, especially with regards to the collection of children’s personal information. The recommendations ask for express consent by the child’s guardian when collecting children’s data. The ACCC’s proposal to add restrictions to the collection, use or disclosure of children’s personal information for targeted advertising or online profiling purposes will raise the bar for privacy protection in Australia in line with COPPA and GDPR-K.

The ACCC also recommends significantly higher penalties for the breach of the Privacy Act, raising the fines to up to 10 percent of the business’ annual turnover.

Changes for Kids Advertisers

The implementation of parental consent would entail a complete change in the way kids brands are able to engage with their audience in the digital space: Audience-based targeting, cookies and retargeting does not meet the minimum kids data privacy regulations as they all collect some form of personal information. Instead, advertisers will have to choose zero-data platforms that only target contextually. 

It is in the brands’ best interests to responsibly engage with kids by protecting their privacy and getting ready for the recommendations – and penalties – to be implemented. Here are a few best practices that brands should follow in order to protect kids and therefore ensure their brand-safety:

  • Only use zero-data ad serving technologies or kidtech
  • Only run contextually targeted campaigns
  • Do not buy into remarketing/retargeting campaigns
  • Use kid-safe programmatic ad-buys
  • Be aware of your environment on social media, buy contextually only
  • Control your delivery chain – audit and contract 

“We’re very glad that the ACCC has taken into account our proposal and is now calling for a strict protection of kids’ privacy. This is in line with what already exists in the US and the EU and what is currently happening all around Asia. At TotallyAwesome our mission is to make the internet safer for kids while helping brands to market responsibly through training, certifications, and kid-safe and compliant platforms,” says TotallyAwesome’s Chief Operating Officer Marcus Herrmann.