On June 14, 2022, representatives of the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network, together with several national data protection authorities in the EU and the secretariat of the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”), endorsed five key principles for fair advertising to children (see press release here).  These recommendations are based on relevant requirements in EU data and consumer protection laws.

According to the authorities, this joint initiative arises from the proliferation of digital business models that increasingly rely on the use of personal data for commercial purposes, which may be subject to specific rules under both data privacy and consumer protection legislation in Europe. 

In their joint statement, the authorities cited research indicating that children (defined as any individual below the age of 18 years old) are unable able to recognize certain forms of advertising — particularly ads that are deeply embedded in the context of digital media and online games — and as a result, they are particularly susceptible to certain forms of advertising potentially inappropriate for children.  Therefore, the authorities published these key principles for businesses to apply in order to (1) avoid practices that can be harmful for children and (2) better inform children about when and how their data is used for advertising purposes.

The five advertising principles are:

  1. Take into account the specific vulnerabilities of children when designing advertising or marketing techniques that are likely to target children (in particular, do not deceive or unduly influence them, and consider whether certain types of personalized marketing are inappropriate for them altogether);
  2. Do not exploit the age or credulity of children when engaged in marketing;
  3. Explain to children, in a manner that is appropriate and clear to them, whenever general marketing content is addressed to them or is likely to be seen by them;
  4. Do not target, urge or prompt children to purchase in-app or in-game content, and games marketed “for free” should not require in-app or in-game purchases to continue playing them in a “satisfactory manner”; and
  5. Do not profile children for advertising purposes. 

The authorities emphasize that these five key principles are without prejudice to applicable EU laws, particularly in the areas of consumer protection and data privacy, including any applicable national implementing rules. 

These principles follow a wave of recent child-oriented standards published by European data protection authorities, including (among others) the UK ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code (see our blog posts here and here), the Irish DPC’s Fundamentals for a Child-Oriented Approach to Data Processing (see our blog posts here, here and here), and the French CNIL’s Eight Recommendations for Protecting Children Online (see our blog post here). 

Moreover, the latest draft of the EU’s Digital Services Act, which has been provisionally agreed by the European Parliament and the Council, requires providers of digital services to implement specific safeguards for protecting children.  Among other things, it requires putting in place “appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure a high level of privacy, safety, and security of minors, on their service”.  It also prohibits providers from showing targeted advertising on their platforms using personal data of individuals who they are “aware with reasonable certainty” to be minors. 

These developments demonstrate the continued focus of European lawmakers and regulators on safeguarding the interests of children, and the importance of businesses staying apprised of these evolving rules and putting in place appropriate measures to ensure compliance.  

The Covington team will keep monitoring any developments in the area of children’s privacy and is happy to assist with any inquiries on the topic.

Photo of Dan Cooper Dan Cooper

Daniel Cooper is co-chair of Covington’s Data Privacy and Cyber Security Practice, and advises clients on information technology regulatory and policy issues, particularly data protection, consumer protection, AI, and data security matters. He has over 20 years of experience in the field, representing…

Daniel Cooper is co-chair of Covington’s Data Privacy and Cyber Security Practice, and advises clients on information technology regulatory and policy issues, particularly data protection, consumer protection, AI, and data security matters. He has over 20 years of experience in the field, representing clients in regulatory proceedings before privacy authorities in Europe and counseling them on their global compliance and government affairs strategies. Dan regularly lectures on the topic, and was instrumental in drafting the privacy standards applied in professional sport.

According to Chambers UK, his “level of expertise is second to none, but it’s also equally paired with a keen understanding of our business and direction.” It was noted that “he is very good at calibrating and helping to gauge risk.”

Dan is qualified to practice law in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Belgium. He has also been appointed to the advisory and expert boards of privacy NGOs and agencies, such as Privacy International and the European security agency, ENISA.

Photo of Nicholas Shepherd Nicholas Shepherd

Nicholas Shepherd is an associate in Covington’s Brussels office, where he is a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity practice group, advising clients on compliance with all aspects of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ePrivacy Directive, European direct marketing laws…

Nicholas Shepherd is an associate in Covington’s Brussels office, where he is a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity practice group, advising clients on compliance with all aspects of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ePrivacy Directive, European direct marketing laws, and other privacy and cybersecurity laws worldwide.  Nick counsels on topics that include adtech, anonymization, children’s privacy, cross-border transfer restrictions, and much more, providing advice tailored to product- and service-specific contexts to help clients apply a risk-based approach in addressing requirements related to transparency, consent, lawful processing, data sharing, and others.

A U.S.-trained and qualified lawyer registered on the B-List of the Brussels Bar, Nick leverages his multi-faceted legal background and international experience to provide clear and pragmatic advice to help organizations address their privacy compliance obligations across jurisdictions.

Photo of Anna Oberschelp de Meneses Anna Oberschelp de Meneses

Anna Sophia Oberschelp de Meneses is an associate in the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group.  Anna is a qualified Portuguese lawyer, but is both a native Portuguese and German speaker.  Anna advises companies on European data protection law and helps clients coordinate…

Anna Sophia Oberschelp de Meneses is an associate in the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group.  Anna is a qualified Portuguese lawyer, but is both a native Portuguese and German speaker.  Anna advises companies on European data protection law and helps clients coordinate international data protection law projects.  She has obtained a certificate for “corporate data protection officer” by the German Association for Data Protection and Data Security (“Gesellschaft für Datenschutz und Datensicherheit e.V.”). She is also Certified Information Privacy Professional Europe (CIPPE/EU) by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).  Anna also advises companies in the field of EU consumer law and has been closely tracking the developments in this area.  Her extensive language skills allow her to monitor developments and help clients tackle EU Data Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Law issues in various EU and ROW jurisdictions.