Jenny Anderson | Quartz | January 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Lawyer Rewrote Instagram’s Privacy Policy So Kids and Parents Can Have Meaningful Talk About Privacy


In Britain, more than half of 12- to 15-year-olds are on Instagram, according to OfCom, the country’s communications regulator. So are 43 percent of 8- to 11-year-olds. But how many of them understand what they signed when they joined? Pretty much 0 percent, according to “Growing Up Digital”, a report released Jan. 5  by the UK Children’s Commissioner.

“Are you sure this is necessary? There are like, 100 pages,” said one 13-year-old who was asked to read Instagram’s terms of service. (Actually 17 pages, with 5,000 words, but still plenty.)

For the report, Jenny Afia, a privacy law expert at Schillings, a U.K.-based law firm, rewrote Instagram’s terms of service in child-friendly language (see page 10). Here are some of the paragraphs—the emphasis is ours:

– Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.

– […] we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we findsuch as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).

– We might send you adverts connected to your interests which we are monitoring. You cannot stop us doing this and it will not always be obvious that it is an advert.

– We can change or end Instagram, or stop you accessing Instagram at any time, for any reason and without letting you know in advance. We can also delete posts and other content randomly, without telling you, for any reason. If we do this, we will not be responsible for paying out any money and you won’t have any right to complain.

– We can force you to give up your username for any reason.

– We can, but do not have to, remove, edit, block and/or monitor anything posted or any accounts that we think breaks any of these rules. We are not responsible if somebody breaks the law or breaks these rules; but if you break them, you are responsible.

“…[I]f they made it more easy then people would actually read it and think twice about the app,” said another 13-year-old girl after being shown the revised policy. “One-third of internet users are children, but the internet wasn’t created for children,” Afia points out.

Of course, it’s not just kids who struggle; according to the report, only people with postgraduate levels of education could properly understand Instagram’s terms and conditions.

Afia thinks that once people become more aware of what they are giving up, they will demand better terms. But will they? Plenty of adults, after all, are signing similar terms and conditions without demanding that they be changed. Afia explains her optimism thus: “They don’t know what is being done, so no one is saying can it be done differently.”

So what can parents do?

The rewritten privacy policy in the report is a good starting point for parents to be able to talk to their kids about what they are signing away.

In the U.K. at least, Afia says, laws also exist that allow parents to find out what information companies have about their children and with whom they are sharing it. “But they don’t ask,” she says. “No one is asking and no one is holding them to account.”

In addition, the report includes advice and links to other resources for parents. For instance, it says:

Finally, the Children’s Commissioner’s report makes three policy recommendations.

The first is to create a compulsory “digital citizenship” program for kids aged 4 to 14, which would be led by older kids, and to a lesser degree, teachers. It would not focus on coding and algorithms, which are currently taught, but on how to protect your rights online and how to respect others’ rights; how to disengage as well as engage online.

The class would be built around 5Rights, an idea created by Beeban Kidron, a film director who said children’s online safety is “too vital to leave to the government.” Those rights are:

The report’s second policy recommendation is to implement the U.K.’s General Data Protection Regulation by writing terms and conditions in a way children can understand. And the third is to create a new Children’s Digital Ombudsman to liaise between parents and social media companies.

In practice, how such a person would have any leverage over the likes of Facebook remains to be seen. And it’s hard to imagine the incoming U.S. government, for example, adopting such a nanny-state measure. But as the report shows, there’s plenty parents themselves can do without waiting for the government or the social-media companies to change their stance.


Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.