One and a half years ago The Danish politician and architect behind the Digital Service Act, DSA, Christel Schaldemose, said in the Danish newspaper Politiken: “It’s almost embarrassing, because I’m also a mother of children who play ‘free’ games. I should have told myself that they pay with their data, but I – probably like many others – never imagined how extensive and frightening it really is,”.
The context was our newly published report: Online Games gamble with children’s data (written by Mie Oehlenschläger, photo, and edited by Pernille Tranberg) that was covered by the Danish newspaper Politiken. The report concluded that children are manipulated into spending money through unethical data and advertisement practices. And we were very happy about the honest and bold statement from the high esteemed politicians who also said that she considered proposing a new EU agency to ensure that digital companies operating at European or global level comply with European law:
“An EU agency could have more muscle than national data protection authorities and it makes sense to keep an eye on companies operating at European or global level at European level,”.
This didn’t happen – and then came the DSA. But the need was certainly there, as suggested by the same newspaper, Politiken, who – on the background of the report – accused “The Danish Data Protection Authority of having lifted a finger”. The data authorities answered that: That’s not true, but the report points to both important problems and good solutions”
And now finally, the Danish Data authorities made an important move last week when signing the so-called Helsinki declaration. The Helsinki Declaration underlines, among other things, that the protection of children’s data is a special focus area for the Nordic supervisors. The Danish DPA brought in the DataEthics’ report and highlighted gaming as a sector that there should be kept an extra eye on. And now in the Helsinki Declaration it says:
Protection of children’s data is a priority for the Nordic DPAs. The DPAs decided to form an informal working group related to children and online gaming to share information, starting with awareness-raising and thereafter identifying possibilities for joint guidance and enforcement actions.
We applaud the Danish Data authorities for their initiative and we look forward to following the work. Both on this and the other important cases they work on such as Google’s unethical and unlawful practices in Danish classrooms.
Also the UK data authority is looking into the topic of children and gaming. Right after our report, Mie Oehlenschläger was invited to a meeting with the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO, discussing how to regulated the business and how to communicate the challenges to various stakeholders.