British watchdog is going to grill Meta about child safety in VR

Meta is being viewed more critically about her approach to child safety. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) told The Guardian in a statement that it is planning “further discussions” with Meta about the Quest 2 VR headset’s compliance with a newly enacted child code that prioritizes the “best interests” of young users. . The watchdog wants to determine whether Meta’s headset and VR services are doing enough to protect children’s privacy and data.

Baroness Beeban Kidron, who developed the code, was concerned that Meta’s platform was making it too easy for kids to sign up and risking abuse, harassment and explicit content. Meta may require a Facebook account (and thus a user to be at least 13 years old), but that doesn’t mean it implements the code’s required age checks. Kids can jump into potentially dangerous VR chat rooms just by “checking a box” to say they’re old enough, Kidron said.

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

The UK can impose a wide range of penalties if the ICO finds that Meta has broken the code. While officials may not do much more than issue a warning, they could also fine Meta up to £17.5 million (about $23.8 million) or as much as 4 percent of its worldwide turnover – more than $10 billion. There’s at least some pressure on Meta to bolster child safety in VR, even if it’s just to protect the company’s finances.

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