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End Surveillance Advertising to Kids

There is no moral justification for spying on children for profit. That's why we are campaigning for the Government to ban surveillance advertising to under 18s.

Surveillance advertising is the cash cow of the internet. Tech platforms harvest every conceivable bit of our personal, often sensitive, data, gaining extraordinary insights about our habits and preferences. These insights are harnessed by powerful algorithms to keep us hooked online – by recommending content they know we can’t avoid – and serve us a torrent of personalised ads. 

In short, our attention is deliberately hijacked in order to sell us ever more stuff.

The invasive and manipulative surveillance advertising business model creates huge profits for the tech platforms, while causing enormous damage to young people’s wellbeing and to the planet. 

We believe the best way to challenge this without creating needless complexity or unintended consequences is for surveillance advertising to be outlawed entirely, protecting children and adults alike.

Of course, companies don’t need to wait for regulation. Websites popular with children could and should:

Gif Animation of girl looking at phone with the words, buy, hurry, sale, 50% off, and whilst stocks last flashing around her

Comply with the existing law and stop sending under 13s personalised ads

Gif animation of boy at laptop with searching eyes

Turn off surveillance ads for under 18s 

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Cap all ads to 10% of social media content.

Our successes so far

  • We have built a powerful coalition of lawyers; academics; clinicians; human rights, privacy & children’s rights advocates; and environment groups, all demanding big tech turn off surveillance advertising to under 18s.
  • We’ve worked with partners to source parents’ stories of harm experienced by children on platforms fuelled by surveillance ads. 
  • We have built a robust policy platform outlining what needs to happen. 
  • We have exposed Meta’s duplicity – restricting advertisers’ ability to target teens while quietly using their internal algorithms to ‘optimise’ kids’ ads. 

And it’s working. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook have been forced to make major changes to their kids’ policies since our campaign began – but they could be doing far more. 

I-SPY Report

Despite our successes to date, the evidence shows these companies cannot be trusted to act in kids’ interests. Now the ball is in politicians’ court. 

 

In March 2022 the UK Government published its long-awaited ‘Online Safety Bill’. Despite an influential committee agreeing with us that ‘surveillance advertising’ should be considered harmful and regulated accordingly, the Government is yet to act. 

 

We will be pushing politicians to amend the bill to bring surveillance advertising within scope. 

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