Dáil to ban junk food companies targeting kids

16 May 2018

The Irish Heart Foundation today (Wednesday, 16 May) strongly welcomed an amendment to the Data Protection Bill making microtargeting of children by junk food marketers using data harvested by social media platforms a criminal offence.

The amendment will mean that the individual targeting of children by junk food marketers using large amounts of personal information extracted from them by digital media platforms will no longer be permitted.

The Irish Heart Foundation, which has vigorously highlighted how marketers have been using Cambridge Analytica-type micro-targeting tactics to bombard children with junk food advertisements for years, said it was an historic decision which accepts the primacy of children’s health over commercial interests.

“Protecting children from online marketing in particular is crucial given the established link between junk food marketing to children and childhood obesity, which State-funded research estimates will result in the premature deaths of up to 85,000 of children on the island of Ireland,” said Irish Heart Foundation Policy Manager, Kathryn Reilly.

“While online advertising of junk food and drinks to children will remain unregulated and therefore detrimental to children’s health, the marketers’ power to influence children will be significantly blunted by the banning of micro-targeting which enables more personalised, effective and therefore potentially more damaging marketing.

"The marketers’ power to influence children will be significantly blunted"

Ms Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

“We hope that the Seanad will now accept the amendment adopted in the Dail and that the Bill will be passed into law as quickly as possible,” Ms Reilly added.

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