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End Surveillance Advertising to Kids

Children are bombarded with advertising online, much of it precision targeted and highly manipulative.


This new reality for children has emerged without societal consent or effective regulation. Virtually no rules exist to apply to what is an enormous and growing part of children's daily lives. We don't think that's ok, and we're determined to change it.


The problem


The lucrative, barely regulated world of targeted ‘behavioural’ online advertising is central to the promotion of 21st century consumerism. Children are targeted in increasingly sophisticated ways with adverts that are tailored specifically for them based on large amounts of sensitive personal information.

Children are particularly vulnerable to this invasive and highly manipulative marketing: they are more susceptible to the pressures of marketing, less likely to recognise paid-for content, and less likely to understand how and what kinds of data are used for these purposes than adults.

Today one in three internet users are children, but they are using a digital environment that was not designed with them in mind. Our everyday activity on the Web, as well as that of our children, is recorded and tracked, with large multinational companies buying and selling this data in order to compile it into detailed profiles that then guide targeted advertising.


What do we want?


To best protect under 18s, we are calling on the Government to ban surveillance advertising to all internet users.

In the meantime, websites popular with children should:


  • Comply with the law and stop targeting under 13s Turn off targeting for under 18s Cap ads to 10% of social media content

  • In September 2020 we authored a joint letter with lawyers, academics, clinicians, privacy campaigners, children’s rights advocates and environment groups, demanding major tech firms turn off targeted advertising to under 18s. The letter warned that firms are breaking EU and UK law if they process under 13s data for advertising purposes. 


  • This letter follows the £2.5bn lawsuit against Google in which the tech giant is accused of illegally data mining 5 million under 13s in UK on YouTube for advertising purposes.

Kids for Sale


One in three internet users world-wide are children. In the UK, 43% of 11-year-olds who go online say they have a social media profile. Yet virtually none of the services popular with children are ad-free.


The explosion of unregulated, targeted online advertising and the urgent need to address it presents an opportunity to reflect on the ethics of advertising to children in general.


On 15 September we convened an international panel of experts to consider online marketing to children, its impacts, and what can be done to limit it.


Read more about our work to end surveillance advertising to children in our position paper.


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