New safeguards are needed to protect children who are interacting with AI home automation technologies that are not designed for them.
The call comes from a report by Dr Veronica Barassi of Goldsmiths, University of London submitted to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The report explores how devices such as AI virtual voice assistants, smart appliances, and security and monitoring technologies are gathering and sharing children’s data. It sets out how, once installed in our homes, these devices lead to children’s data becoming intertwined with adult profiles.
Dr Barassi argues that the data of children that is being collected from home automation technologies is not only personal (individual) data but is ‘home life data’, a mix of family data, household data and highly contextual data. Terms and Conditions always refer to personal data and there is little scrutiny or understanding of what happens to the data generated by the aggregation of adult and child profiles.
Dr Barassi, who leads the British Academy funded Child Data Citizen project at Goldsmiths, said: “We’ve seen privacy concerns raised about smart toys and AI virtual assistants aimed at children, but so far there has been very little debate about home hubs and smart technologies aimed at adults that children encounter and that collect their personal data.
“The very newness of the home automation environment means we do not know what algorithms are doing with this ‘messy’ data that includes children’s data. Firms currently fail to recognise the privacy implications of children’s daily interactions with home automation technologies that are not designed or targeted at them. Despite GDPR, it’s left up to parents to protect their children’s privacy and navigate a confusing array of terms and conditions.
“We are calling for the ICO to launch a review on the impact of home life data on children’s privacy and put this concept at the heart of future debates about children’s data protection.”
The ‘Home Life Data and Children’s Privacy’ report was submitted in response to a call from The Information Commissioner for evidence and views on the Age Appropriate Design Code. The document was co-signed by Gus Hosein, Executive Director, Privacy International, and supported by Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy.