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Securing children’s safety online – we must all play our part

15.05.2018

At the 2018 G20 Consumer Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we will be shining the spotlight on the safety of connected products and services for children. In this blog, our Director General, Amanda Long, discusses the launch of our new spoof advert and outlines why this issue requires urgent attention from governments, manufactures and civil society.  

In today’s digital world, there is a seemingly insatiable drive to connect consumer products to the internet. The world of children’s digital products and services is no different. From toys and apps that are designed to keep children entertained, to baby monitors and products that help parents to keep track of their child’s location and safety, the global market for children’s connected devices is growing at a significant pace. 

And while connected devices have the potential to benefit many children as well as their parents and carers, it is clear that there are substantial safety risks and privacy concerns that need to be addressed. Weak security, inappropriate marketing practices, low quality data protection are just a few of the key issues that have been highlighted in recent research by consumer organisations.

At the heart of this we see a lack of consideration and care from manufacturers towards protecting vulnerable consumers online. Something we have also seen with apps and games for children. All too often, the safety and privacy of end users seems to be an afterthought, rather than an essential step that has to be prioritised before a product can hit the market.

HuggyBug – the 100% hackable children’s toy

Today at the G20 Consumer Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we are launching our new 60-second spoof advert ‘Huggy Bug Your Family’, highlighting some of the problems found in internet-connected children’s products. Click below to watch the video in English.

 

What’s the solution?

Children shouldn’t be growing up with potentially a ‘spy’ in their bedrooms and parents shouldn’t have to worry about who’s listening in. We are calling on G20 countries to improve the security and data protection of children’s connected products and services over the next year and support greater international co-operation on the topic.  

Depending on national context, countries could:

  1. Raise awareness amongst developers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers of the risks that connected products and services can pose to children  
  2. Develop or adopt a minimum set of acceptable security and privacy standards for developers, manufacturers and retailers of connected de
    devices for children.
  3. Create a national body has responsibility for all aspects of digital consumer protection including the Internet of Things and the protection of vulnerable or disadvantaged groups.  
  4. Support greater international co-operation by holding a meeting with other G20 countries during 2018 / 2019 to raise the international profile of this challenge and exchange good practice and support international co-operation.

Alongside strong action from the G20, we must also call on manufacturers to address safety and privacy features at the beginning of the design process, rather than taking retrospective measures when another security fail makes global headlines.  

To spread the word, we need your help. Please support our call by sharing the HuggyBug video on social media, using the hashtag #SecureToys.

Together, we can all play our part in ensuring that digital products and services for children are setting benchmarks in best practice security, data protection and privacy, rather than hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.