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In an open letter to Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, MPs, academics, and campaigners have asked the big tech companies to stop targeting children with personalised advertising.
Global Action Plan
The letter has been published online by Global Action Plan (GAP) which is a charity that campaigns on primarily environmental issues but also believes that consumerism is a value system that can damage the wellbeing of young people and add to the environmental strain that the planet is under.
Stop Targeted Advertising To Kids
GAP believes that because younger generations have grown up with adverts all their lives, this has led to problems with their mental health and self-esteem. GAP is particularly concerned that there are no rules limiting the number of adverts shown to kids online. The charity says that “children are being targeted in increasingly sophisticated ways with adverts that are tailored specifically for them based on large amounts of sensitive personal information”.
GAP wants websites that are popular with children to comply with the law and stop targeting under 13s, turn off targeting for under 18s, and introduce a cap that will ensure that adverts only make up 10 per cent of social media content.
The open letter, which is directly addressed to Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, is the latest move as part of GAP’s Stop Targeted Advertising to Kids campaign. The letter makes the points that:
– Behavioural advertising undermines childrens’ privacy.
– Ad-tech companies are showing a disregard for privacy laws and appear to be subjecting children to extraordinary surveillance.
– Children are more susceptible to the pressures of marketing, are less likely to recognise paid-for content, and are less likely to understand how and what kinds of data are used for these purposes than adults.
The open letter asks for an end to behavioural ads to those people who the platforms know are, or are identified as, under 18, and states that “There is no justification for targeting teenagers with personalised ads any more than there is for targeting 12-year-olds.”
The letter has 19 signatories including Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Caroline Lucas MP, and Amnesty International.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
GAP accepts that many websites and platforms need to host advertising but the points that GAP is making is that ‘excessive’ advertising is fuelling the consumer culture that is leading to the destruction of the environment and it seems that although targeted advertising to children is going on, there appears to be no societal consent or effective regulation. With one in three internet users worldwide being children and with 43 per cent of 11-year-olds who go online (in the UK) saying they have a social media profile, this potential problem of a lack of current regulation for the targeting of children (many of whom may be having their privacy compromised before they are even old enough to make decisions about their privacy) is significant. Big tech companies, such as Facebook, who have made the headlines in recent years over privacy issues, e.g. Cambridge Analytica and stopping hate speech online, are likely to want to appear to act responsibly with issues relating to the wellbeing of children but it remains to be seen how they respond to the open letter from GAP.