Report warns of smart home tech impact on children’s privacy

A UK academic researching the impact of big data and artificial intelligence on family life has issued a call for new privacy measures and age appropriate design code are included in home automation technologies.

Dr. Veronica Barassi of Goldsmiths, University of London, leads the Child Data Citizen research project, and submitted a report on “Home Life Data and Children’s Privacy” (PDF) to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), arguing that data collected from children by home automation devices is both personal data and is “home life data,” which is made up of family, household, biometric and highly contextual data. She calls for the ICO to launch a review the impact of home life data on children’s privacy, and to include the concept in future considerations.

“Most Virtual Assistants and smart technologies rely on the gathering of biometric data (voice recognition or facial recognition), including the one of children,” Barassi writes in the report. “Yet privacy policies often tend to group this data under the generic umbrella term of ‘biometric data’ and do not differentiate the one of adults from the one of children.”

Barassi also notes in a blog post that terms and conditions which refer to personal data do not seem to provide much understanding of what happens to aggregated data, and that debates around the privacy implications of smart toys and AI assistants for children have not generally been extended to smart home technologies children may encounter.

The report authored by Barassi is also co-signed by Privacy International Executive Director Gus Hosein and supported by Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy.

The UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham expressed concerns earlier this year about the public use of facial recognition technology, and threatened legal action if sufficient efforts are not made to limit the intrusive use of the technology.

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