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Facebook data breach represents 'blatant undermining of children's rights'

The mining and sharing of Facebook data without users’ consent blatantly disregarded the rights of children and young people, Children in Scotland warns today.

An estimated one third of internet users in the world are young people under the age of 18[1]. By age 12, more than half of all children have a social media profile.[2]  This rises to 96%[3] of 16-24 year olds having a social media account.
Media reports in the past week estimate that 50 million Facebook users had their personal data exploited by the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. Thousands of children and young people are likely to be part of this figure.

This is fundamentally inconsistent with the 5Rights framework[4], which highlights children’s five key rights in relation to technology, including the right to be informed.

Young people have previously articulated concerns about data being gathered without their informed consent, for example through unclear data gathering terms and conditions.

Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy Amy Woodhouse said:

“This breach represents a worrying step outside already unclear terms and we are concerned that it is part of a pattern. V-tech, a maker of electric toys, was fined for failing to protect the privacy of children collected through its Kid Connect app. [5] There have also been concerns raised in the past over the use of Periscope at the same time as Facebook was rolling out Messenger Kids[6], directed at children under the age of 13.

“Fundamentally, children and young people have the right to object to the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes, as Children in Scotland highlighted in our recent response to GDPR regulations.[7] This is clearly not being upheld when young people are entirely unaware that data is being gathered in the first place.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that Facebook will investigate apps that had access to ‘large amounts of information’ prior to changes in policy in 2014, and his promise to audit any apps that show ‘suspicious activity’ is a step in the right direction, along with assurances that they will contact those affected by the breach.

“However, Facebook has been aware of this breach for a considerable period of time, and we are extremely concerned that the company appears to only be reacting to the negative news story rather than the fundamental issues raised by the breach itself – a breach they only became aware of through investigative journalism rather than their own procedures.

“Rights are not dependent on media stories or share prices. All companies and organisations should have rigorous processes and be fully transparent in what data they are gathering, why, and what purposes it may be used for.

“We welcome the Information Commissioner’s ongoing investigation into data analytics for political purposes[8], and believe that children and young people’s rights must be a core consideration of this investigation.”

[1] https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFI79K_I

[2] Ofcom figures, available at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/108182/children-parents-media-use-attitudes-2017.pdf

[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/271879/social-network-profile-creation-in-the-uk-by-age/

[4] https://5rightsframework.com

[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42620717

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/10/data-hungry-facebook-seeks-younger-recruits-messenger-kids

[7] https://childreninscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/GDPR-CiS_Final.pdf

[8] https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2018/03/ico-statement-investigation-into-data-analytics-for-political-purposes/

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