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Launch of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA)

Author: Aebha Curtis, Policy Analyst, TrustElevate

TrustElevate is delighted to be a founding member of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), which is launched today. OSTIA is an industry body that brings together innovative companies which operate in the field of online safety and believe that the UK is at the forefront of safety tech. The development of products and solutions that will make a significant contribution to keeping children and young people safe online is an issue that gets to the heart of what we do at TrustElevate.

TrustElevate enables digital platforms and playgrounds, such as TikTok and YouTube, to know the age band to which a child belongs. Crucially, for young children, TrustElevate also verifies an assertion of parental responsibility for a child, so that a parent can grant or deny permission their child’s access to an app or website.

Equipped with this non-personally identifiable information, and explicit consent, protective measures can be deployed to create a safer internet for children that respects their right to a secure online experience. Adapting and building these child-friendly environments ultimately means consideration of children’s dignity and wellbeing in alignment with new regulations such as the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018 as well as the ICO’s recently published Age Appropriate by Design code. The code of practice requires tech companies to put the “best interests of the child” first when they are designing and developing apps, games, connected toys and websites that are likely to be accessed by them.

Children’s safety online has become one of the UK government’s foremost priorities. TrustElevate’s technology solution for the challenges inherent to the age verification of children, and the data protection issues arising from that, facilitates the alignment of government’s aims, business practice and children’s wellbeing.

OSTIA’s launch comes at a crucial time, as just this month, the NCA predicted a rise in online child sexual abuse during the coronavirus pandemic, and earlier this month Interpol issued a global threat assessment, demonstrating that recent weeks have seen increased online activity by paedophiles seeking child sexual abuse material. Child abuse material is often solicited from children by both adults and adolescents with a sexual interest in children, who befriend children online, groom them with expressions of love before soliciting a child to record sexually explicit images. Once a child produces and shares these images they can be further exploited to produce more images – pictures and videos.

TrustElevate’s founder, Dr Rachel O’Connell’s PhD focused on tracking paedophile activity online, Rachel is the former CSO of Bebo, a social networking site, and the technical author of the British Standards Institutions PAS 1296 Age checking code of practice says:

We envisage OSTIA will be a significant force for much needed change. Many if not most of the apps that children routinely use are not designed with children’s safety in mind. The time has come for companies that serve children and young people both to adopt Safe by Design principles before launching services and to deploy the types of tech solutions offered by members of OSTIA.

Written by Aebha Curtis

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