The UNICEF Manifesto on better governance of children’s data

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Photograph of a girl doing homework at a computer

Over the past year, I had the privilege of contributing to a UNICEF manifesto on the better governance of children’s data. I’m thrilled to finally announce that the manifesto has been published. We hope that governments and policymakers will use it to put young people at the centre of their decisions.

The manifesto contains ten action points:

  1. Protect children & their rights through child-centered data governance. Minimize the use of surveillance and algorithms for profiling children’s behaviour.
  2. Prioritise children’s best interests in all decisions about children’s data. Governments & companies should prioritize children’s rights in their data collection, processing & storage practices.
  3. Consider children’s unique identities, evolving capacities and circumstances in data governance frameworks. Every child is different!
  4. Shift responsibility for data protection from children to companies & governments. Extend the protection measures to all children below the age of 18.
  5. Collaborate with children and their communities in policy building + management of their data. Through distributed models of data governance, children and their communities should have more say.
  6. Represent children’s interests within administrative and judicial processes, as well as redress mechanisms
  7. Provide adequate resources to implement child-inclusive data governance frameworks. Data protection authorities & tech companies must employ staff who understand children’s rights.
  8. Use policy innovation in data governance to solve complex problems and accelerate results for children. Policy innovation can help public authorities to make the most of data, while at the same time safeguarding children’s rights.
  9. Bridge knowledge gaps in the realm of data governance for children. There are some urgent knowledge gaps that need further research to ensure that data governance regulations are evidence-based.
  10. Strengthen interational collaboration for children’s data governance + promote knowledge + policy transfer among countries. We call for greater global coordination on law + policy.

In my approach to the project, I brought two things to the table. One was my perspective as a privacy and digital rights activist. The other was my perspective as the mum of a teenager living through the most confusing years of their life in the middle of a pandemic lockdown. Yes, the adtech surveillance on their phone scares me. But safety tech vendors, the headteacher’s Chromebook monitoring, and the school system’s mandatory “safeguarding” obligations scare me even more. Any proposed legislative options which consider one but not the other, or which propose digital solutions to analogue problems, will solve nothing.

Children and young people have the rights to privacy and freedom of expression as much as adults do. I hope that the Manifesto provides a useful toolkit to help them enjoy those rights more than they are able to do so today.
Download the manifesto

The Author

I’m a UK tech policy wonk based in Glasgow. I work for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. The content and opinions on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of any current or previous team.