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The Quantum Hub discusses concerns on age verification and children’s data processing under India’s data protection law

Under the DPDP Act, platforms cannot process the data of anyone under the age of 18 before obtaining verifiable parental consent from the parent or any other lawful guardian.

On December 6, public policy research organization The Quantum Hub conducted a panel discussion on the issues pertaining to the processing of children’s data under the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDP) 2023. Under the DPDP Act, platforms cannot process the data of anyone under the age of 18 before obtaining verifiable parental consent from the parent or lawful guardian of such an individual. They are also prohibited from tracking or behavioral monitoring of anyone under the age of 18. Here are some notable concerns that were raised during the discussion.

Behavioral monitoring is necessary to show children age-appropriate content:

Speaking at the discussion, Hui Lin Tan, YouTube’s product-public policy lead for the Asia Pacific pointed out that this restriction on behavioral monitoring can have unintended consequences. She said that machine language systems, like YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, need to learn from how content is consumed. If platforms like YouTube have to serve content to a user without monitoring content consumption, “we might be inevitably making content undiscoverable to younger users for their learning and developmental needs, whereas we make it easier for bad actors to be reaching users with low quality or potentially harmful content,” Tan argued.

Issues with using ID-based age verification:

According to a study conducted by Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC) which was presented during The Quantum Hub’s event, 45% of the children surveyed used their mother’s devices to access the internet. Sidharth Deb, a public policy manager at The Quantum Hub pointed out that even though children more often use their mother’s devices, formal documentation for the child often mentions the father’s name. “That, in itself, can create a logistical issue to allow for mothers to be able to exercise parental consent especially if they are the parent who is more involved in children’s digital interactions on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

How under-18 migrant workers would be affected by the DPDP Act:

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Sourav Adhikari, a consultant at the Policy & Development Advisory Group highlighted that there is a small but significant population of migrant laborers who are under the age of 18. This group, he said, purchases smartphones and uses it to send their earnings to their families. He pointed out that in such circumstances, these workers would struggle to authenticate themselves and also to get authentication from their family members. Speaking about his experience working around labor migration in Jharkhand, he mentioned that when the pandemic occurred, the government of Jharkhand rolled out an app used to collect information about migrant workers stranded elsewhere. This information, he said, was used to conduct direct benefit transfers (DBTs). Using this kind of an app under the DPDP Act would also become a problem, Adhikari explained.

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