Protecting children from inappropriate ads

The Times recently led, with the news that children are being exposed to an ever-growing barrage of gambling adverts online.

The issue of children being exposed to a huge increase in gambling adverts is something that governments need to take almost as seriously as the recent debates on encryption and terrorism, as illustrated by Ms Lampard’s comment:

“As a society, we should be concerned about the rising risk of harm from wider access and more regular participation in gambling on future generations, resulting in a possible public health crisis in gambling addiction.”

The UK government risks adopting a similarly blinkered and technologically naïve approach to both problems.

The good news is that national security concerns can be balanced with privacy using technology available today. The right technology will also deliver services for the advertising industry, providing policy driven controls that have never before been available as the data is more trustworthy.

Unlike a child walking into a shop, who is prevented from buying goods such as tobacco and alcohol based on age verification, we all know that, on the Internet, anyone — of any age — can buy just about anything. Similarly with advertising, legislation and the watershed can help limit exposure to children under a certain age, but legislation alone will not solve the problem.

The same technology solution that can balance national security and civil ethics will also, down the line, solve this problem for the advertising industry,

Imagine a world where every user of the Internet has a Privacy Account – an internet identity (which includes verification). This can’t be something you can fake, it could be linked to National Insurance numbers, government gateway ID or a mobile phone account for example.

Privacy Accounts will give users more control of their online presence – limiting who can see their content and how that content is used. Access to content can be legitimately provided to law enforcement with the correct legal framework in place.

Advertising can continue to target content based on user preferences (in fact, with better accuracy), with the peace of mind that legal and industry regulatory policy, such as age restrictions, can be adhered to.

Striving towards a safer environment for digital lifestyles has its challenges. Privacy Accounts make a significant stride in creating such an environment.