UK Watchdog to interrogate Meta on Child Safety in VR

Meta is facing more scrutiny over its approach to child safety. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said The Guardian on a declaration who was planning “more discussions” with Meta about the Quest 2 VR headset’s compliance with a newly established children’s code that prioritizes the “best interests” of young users. Watchdog wants to determine if Meta’s headset and virtual reality services do enough to protect children’s privacy and data.

Baroness Beeban Kidron, who developed the code, was concerned that Meta’s platform would make it too easy for kids to get in and risk abuse, harassment and explicit content. Meta may require a Facebook account (and therefore a user to be at least 13 years old), but that doesn’t mean it’s implementing the code’s required age checks. Children can enter potentially dangerous VR chat rooms just by “checking a box” to say they are old enough, Kidron said.

A Meta spokesman said The Guardian the internet giant was “committed” to honoring the children’s code and was “confident” that its VR hardware met the code’s requirements. The representative emphasized that the terms of service do not allow children under 13 to use the products, but did not address concerns that it was too easy for children to ignore this policy. The company has already pledged a $50 million program to ensure metaverse development complies with laws and regulations.

The UK could apply a wide range of punishments if ICO finds that Meta has violated the code. While authorities can do little more than issue a warning, they can also fine the Target a fixed amount of up to 17.5 million pounds (about $23.8 million) or up to 4% of its worldwide turnover – more than $10 billion. There is at least some pressure on the Goal to strengthen child safety in VR, if only to protect the company’s finances.

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