The recent class-action lawsuits filed against Disney, Viacom and Kiloo in the US have prompted the kids’ media industry, in particular publishers, to reassess how they operate. If you’re a publisher, here’s what you should know:
1) Know your partners: The risks have now increased. Serious kids’ publishers will have to reconsider their partnership with all ad networks and adtech platforms that can’t operate without collecting data. When you rely on contracts or the goodwill of your partners to be compliant, you don’t know (and cannot easily test or prove) whether they are in fact treating data collected on your site compliantly. You may be compliant as far as the regulator is concerned, but do you look compliant to the public (or to class-action lawyers)?
2) You’re either in the kids content business or not. Five years ago, publishers with a ‘family’ audience could sit on the fence and optimize for both. That time has now passed. If you are a general audience publisher that also has kids’ traffic, you need to accelerate the implementation of age gates, and commit to putting your under-13 audience into a zero-data environment.
3) This one’s worth repeating – the onus is on you! Just as it is for advertisers and agencies, the same applies to publishers. The lawsuits are broadly based on two claims: that the SDK partners or ad networks knew, or should have known, that the apps in question were kids’ apps and if they did know, then they must not use any data collected for behavioural tracking or user profiling, and that these partners likely breached COPPA because profiling and targeting is their core business. Although it may seem the focus is all on the ad network partners, in fact the onus is on both the publisher and the ad network to prove that they did not use kids’ data in breach of COPPA.
4) This is just the beginning: In the lead up to the GDPR enforcement date (25 May 2018) the spotlight is on kids’ digital safety and data privacy. Article 8 of the GDPR basically replicates COPPA, so it’s highly likely that there will be much more aggressive enforcement action. The fact that a US class-action lawsuit is suing a privately-held games publisher should be fair warning for others. Publishers need to have a coherent, technically (and legally) sound kids’ digital strategy.
5) It’s actually good news for ad monetization strategies. By putting in place these measures for your U13 audience, you’re also creating exactly the kind of standards that the top kids advertisers are looking for (who are also very aware of what’s happening on the regulatory side).
And for you keen beans, here’s some further reading for publishers/developers from Kidscreen.
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