Last week, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) submitted comments to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to inform the Special Rapporteur’s upcoming report on the privacy rights of children.
The Special Rapporteur’s report, expected in March 2021, will focus on how privacy affects the evolving capacity of the child and the growth of autonomy, and what factors enhance or constrain this development.
FPF’s comments focus on encouraging the Special Rapporteur to consider two key points in the development of their report, including:
- How child privacy legislation can and should react to actual harms, and not unsubstantiated fears, in order to avoid unintended consequences that may impact the rights of children to benefit from and participate in the online ecosystem; and
- How child privacy policies must consider and balance competing and evolving interests between children and other authority figures such as parents or teachers, and recognize the need to foster resilience and autonomy in children by helping them develop digital skills.
Additionally, FPF’s comments suggest that the Special Rapporteur’s report include a discussion on the need for schools, districts, and their third-party vendors to be transparent about data and technology use, storage, analysis, and purpose with children, parents, and other relevant stakeholders.
Transparency around data and technology use has become particularly urgent in recent months as millions of children around the world shifted to some form of online or distance education when the COVID-19 pandemic closed many school buildings in early 2020. Since that time, FPF has developed and compiled student privacy and COVID-19-related resources for school leaders, policymakers, teachers, and students and their families on its student privacy-focused website, StudentPrivacyCompass.org.
By sharing our expertise and insight on the US student privacy landscape and its long history of unintended consequences, the importance of balancing the interests of children with authority figures, and the critical need for fostering an environment of transparency and trust, FPF hopes to help inform a thorough and thoughtful report on the privacy rights of children by the Special Rapporteur next spring. We look forward to discussing these recommendations and others with child privacy stakeholders in the U.S. and around the world in the coming months.