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Trahan, Markey, Castor Call on Major Gaming Companies to Extend UK Design Code Protections to American Children

LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (FL-14) sent letters to 12 leading international gaming companies urging them to extend online protections guaranteed to children in the United Kingdom under the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) to kids and teenagers in the United States.

“It is imperative that Congress acts with urgency to enact a strong privacy law for children and teens in the 21st century,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we work towards that goal, we urge you to extend to American children and teens any privacy enhancements that you implement to comply with the AADC.”

Slated to take effect on September 2nd, the AADC mandates that all commercial online services that are likely to be used by children and teens under the age of 18, including online games, social media platforms, search engines, and applications, be in compliance with a set of strict standards designed to protect young users’ privacy and wellbeing. The Age Appropriate Design Code specifically requires online services to meet fifteen standards that establish privacy by default, limit the amounts of data collected on children, restrict “nudging techniques” commonly used in online games, and require transparency.

The AADC’s standards are expected to address a number of issues with online gaming platforms, including the high rates of micro-transactions resulting from “nudging,” cyber criminals looking to access children’s personal information, and the harvesting and monetization of young users’ data. However, those protections are only extended statutorily to children in the U.K., meaning young users in the United States could continue to be exposed to harmful features and techniques used by companies playing by a different set of rules elsewhere.

“In light of these threats, children and teens deserve strong online privacy safeguards. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) covers children aged 12 and under and prohibits the collection, use, or disclosure of children’s personal information without notice to parents and parental consent,” wrote Trahan, Markey, and Castor. “However, young internet users deserve a new set of requirements and prohibitions that builds on COPPA. Signers of this letter have proposed legislation to extend privacy protections to teens, amend COPPA to cover websites that should reasonably know that kids are on their platforms, and create new data minimization standards to stop websites from amassing troves of information about kids and teens.”

A copy of the letters can be accessed by clicking HERE. The companies receiving letters include Activision Blizzard, Disney, Epic Games, Microsoft, Niantic, Nintendo, Riot Games, Roblox, Sony, Spin Master, Take-Two Interactive, and Warner Bros.

Similar to their request to the CEOs of large social media companies in June, the lawmakers also pressed each gaming company on their plans to comply with the AADC’s new standards by requesting a response to two simple questions:

  1. Do you intend to make changes to your product or service’s design or data collection and use to comply with the UK Age Appropriate Design Code? 
  2. Will you implement these changes for users in the United States? If not, why not? If yes, will these changes be reflected on a public-facing website or in your terms of service?