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Intelligence Briefs

Data ownership legislation probably won’t protect children

Industry Contributor

Teresa Davis, Associate Professor, Marketing
University of Sydney Business School

14 January 2020 4min read

It is suggested that nearly 81 per cent of children in Western countries and 92 per cent of US children born in the post social media world have some kind of online presence before they turn two years old. What are the implications of balancing marketing opportunity with the serious issue of protecting children’s data online? Allaer, Cardinal-Bradette and Sert from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University suggest use of the data should be the focus, not ownership. This could have important implications for today’s marketer. (Wired)

Key points:

  • With children’s data online, the owners of the data are often parents/guardians not the children themselves
  • Online platforms such as YouTube have replaced TV as the key form of media consumed by children
  • ‘Sharenting’ (parents sharing their child’s picture online) is reportedly an inescapable reality for 92 per cent of US children born in the post Facebook era.
  • Children are growing up with a digital footprint that may extend to even before they are born

 

My Takeout

With the FTC investigating YouTube’s harvesting of children’s data,  marketers must urgently understand where to draw the line between gleaning useful data and violating personal rights.

As Lorenz points out in The Atlantic; proud parents and schools can sometimes be just as responsible in oversharing the details of the children in their care as are the young people themselves.

From pre-birth sonograms to school play images, social media has become a public notice board where images stay forever. Children in their teens are already questioning what has gone on without their consent. In France, where privacy laws are strong, a child can sue a parent for breaching their privacy by posting their images online. In 2014, European courts ruled that citizens can have any past online damaging information (of them as minors) hidden from Google searches in a ‘the right to be forgotten’ legislation.

The CEOs of Apple and Facebook have both suggest that data ownership rules will help creators manage and control their data, and that this would protect the creators from marketers and others from harvesting this data without their consent.

However, given that most such data is gathered using algorithmic and aggregated data collected based on whether or not the target fits the algorithm’s criteria, this is difficult to enforce.

Similarly, for minors, the notion of creators’ ownership of data means parents, guardians or institutions who care for them may inadvertently share their data online. Thus, ownership of data may not be the most optimal way to think about protecting children's data privacy.

This may come at the cost of allowing marketers unfettered access to data collection, but it may be more useful when thinking of the darker uses of children’s data. Allaer, Cardinal-Bradette and Sert from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University suggest use of the data is what should be prioritised - not ownership.

Thus, when online platforms, governments, institutions and corporations that use the data improperly are penalised, the child who has little control over the ownership of their own data or images is better protected. They suggest that any protection framework “should define technical standards that prioritise privacy and establish uniform practices for online platform employees, such as the engineers building these systems”.

Let’s go. What do you think?

Industry Contributor

Teresa Davis, Associate Professor, Marketing
University of Sydney Business School

Teresa is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School. Teresa's main research interests lie in two areas: the first is in children as consumers, of particular interest is the relationship between advertising and the digital marketing of food to children. The second area is culture and consumption. 

Teresa has published articles in Marketing Theory, European Journal of Marketing, Sociology, Journal of Marketing Management, Consumption Markets and Culture and others. Her teaching interests lie in Consumer Behaviour, and Social Marketing.

Teresa is Co-Convenor of the Australian Food, Culture and Society Network and a Partner Investigator of Leverhulme International Research Network Grant Project: Discursive Families project.

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