Privacy - thoughts from Qniqr
Every member of the founding team at QniQr is passionate about our community, our ethos, and our ambitions for children and their education.
We will share our thoughts and discoveries with you in an occasional blog – and would encourage you to feedback, or join our discussions through the QniQr community, directly by email, or through our social media channels.
Some of the things we care about? Safe play; the reduction of waste; respect and authority given to our young people; sharing, recycling and re-use; privacy and online security.
Check into our content below to find out more about us and what makes QniQr tick.
Online security and privacy for children – Marjolein Busstra
What are the key factors that an internet company must consider to keep children safe?
Safety is one of the biggest concerns that deserves absolute priority, but it is not the only one. When working with children, it is important to realise that they not only need to be kept safe, but that they equally need to be able to play, to exercise autonomy, to feed their imagination, to have fun and to connect with others, to name a few. So the first factor for success is to take a broad view of children’s needs. The UN rights of the child are summarised in one principle: do what is in the best interest of the child. This should be the guiding principle for any company working with children.
It should underlie every decision you make, from product design and development to marketing and customer support. Sometimes it means you have to weigh competing interests: at QniQr we spent many hours discussing how to strike the right balance between giving children autonomy and keeping them safe.
Sometimes it means you have to make choices that don’t seem very wise from a commercial standpoint: we declined for instance to use the commonly used data analytics providers or to install aggressive cookies on our website. And sometimes it means that you have to go that extra mile, taking into account your users’ capabilities and vulnerabilities. We have tried to write all our policies in child-friendly language, and we have developed animated tutorials that take them through the entire user journey on the website.
I think it is important to realise that this process never stops. We have to continually monitor what is happening on the marketplace and check if we need to make any changes. Consulting our young users and asking them what they think is key in this respect.
Fortunately, there is a lot of advice available online for companies who want to keep their young users’ best interests at heart. The ICO has published a very practical guide for companies providing online services to children and a number of charities work specifically on this issue.
Which internet sites do you think do a good job in keeping children safe, and why?
Honestly, I do not think that any website can keep young users completely safe by itself. It is always a combination of parents supporting and educating their children and the websites playing their part and giving parents appropriate tools to do this in the best and easiest way possible. At QniQr we realised very early on that we could not offer our service without actively involving the parents. We assist them by providing flexible and clear controls and guidance on how to use these.
Fortunately, online safety for children is a more and more prominent topic and there are quite a few interesting initiatives, like the BBC’s ‘Own it’ app and Google’s ‘Be internet legends’ that is championed by Parentzone.
What steps has QniQr put in place to ensure child safety?
The safety of our users is one of our biggest concerns and has informed every step of the process of designing and developing the QniQr marketplace.
We are aware that we have a heavier responsibility than some video or gaming websites because our website actually allows children to contact and meet each other. To keep them safe while doing this, we had to think very carefully about checks and controls, without taking all the fun out of the experience. I can tell you that this involved many hours of debating and the occasional headache. But it was worth it.
For each action children can take on the website, we have carefully considered the risks and what we could do to prevent them from happening. Our biggest risks have to do with privacy violations, bullying, fraud and children connecting with predators or criminals. These risks are addressed at every stage of the QniQr journey:
QniQr follows the principle of maximising privacy and minimising the amount of personal data we collect and process
All adults/guardians signing up to QniQr have to submit a number of personal details, which allows us to run a light identity check and deters persons with malicious intent.
Parents are guided in setting age appropriate controls and have full overview of their child’s activity on the marketplace.
Children are encouraged to act responsibly, through our tutorials and guidance.
We actively monitor what is happening on the marketplace and have partnered with a company that has developed state of the art content moderation services.
Children and parents can report anything that does not seem right; we have strong safeguarding policies in place.
Why will QniQr never run ads?
While advertisements are a normal part of the adult economy, we believe that they can be harmful and distracting for children, especially the younger ones. Research backs this up. So, we have decided not to allow any ads on our platform, making sure QniQr is all about children trading amongst themselves and learning along the way.
We do believe that children should learn to recognise ads and understand how they work, so we may do something educational around advertisements at a later stage. However, we will never use ads targeting children as a source of revenue, because it would require us to compromise on our core values as a company.
How will QniQr prevent professional traders from using the site to buy or sell?
Asking all parents/guardians who sign up to QniQr to submit a number of personal details will act as a first threshold for any commercial traders to try to enter the QniQr community. In addition, we actively monitor what is happening on the marketplace and ask our users to report any suspicious behaviour. If we see any unusual or suspicious trading patterns, we will contact the particular user and will close the account if we find that they are a professional trader.
What role does the parent or responsible person have on QniQr?
We cannot run QniQr without the parents and guardians, it is as simple as that. When parents/guardians sign up to QniQr we ask them to accept responsibility for their child’s activity on the marketplace. We expect parents to use the tools we give them to keep an eye on what their child is doing and to intervene when necessary. Parents know their child best and are best placed to decide which level of control is suitable for their child. We do offer them guidance on age appropriate controls and we encourage them to discuss with their child what level of supervision is necessary.
Parents should also realise that full control is not always in the best interest of their child. Kids develop and grow, and controls may be relaxed as the child gets more experienced in trading on QniQr. Also, the older children get, the more privacy they may expect, also from their parents. This is why we encourage parents to check their child’s chats on QniQr only if this is necessary to keep their child safe.
This all sounds very serious, and of course online safety is a serious issue. However, we do hope that parents will have lots of fun using QniQr together