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January 3, 2024

Police investigate virtual sex assault on girl’s avatar 

  • The chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has said that police are investigating a virtual sexual assault of a girl’s avatar, causing “psychological trauma”.
  • Ian Critchley of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) reported that the metaverse had created a “gateway for predators to commit horrific crimes against children, crimes we know have lifelong impacts both emotionally and mentally”.
  • According to an unnamed senior officer, the victim, who was under 16 at the time, suffered psychological trauma “similar to that of someone who has been physically raped”.
  • However, in criminal law, rape and sexual assault require there to have been physical contact.
  • Meta has said in a statement: “The kind of behaviour described has no place on our platform, which is why for all users we have an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don’t know a few feet away from you.”
  • They continued: “Though we weren’t given any details about what happened ahead of this story publishing, we will look into it as details become available to us.”
  • For more, please visit the BBC News website.

Google settles $5bn lawsuit for ‘private mode’ tracking 

  • Google has agreed to settle a US lawsuit claiming it invaded the privacy mode of users by tracking them in private mode.
  • The class action claimed that Google had tracked users’ activity even when they set the Google Chrome browser to “Incognito” mode and other browsers to “private mode”.
  • It said this had turned Google into an “unaccountable trove of information” on user preferences and “potentially embarrassing things”.
  • Judge Rogers had rejected Google’s bid to have the case dismissed in early 2023, saying she could not agree that users consented to allowing Google to collect information on their browsing activity.
  • Google reported that the collection of search history, even in private viewing mode, helped site owners “better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing and more”.
  • Lawyers are expected to present a formal settlement for the court’s approval by February 2024.
  • For more, please visit the BBC News website.

The following story may be regionalised:

When will the 15 free hours of childcare for two-year-olds begin? 

  • Working parents in England can start applying for 15 hours of funded childcare for their two-year-old from 2nd January 2024.
  • From April, working parents of two-year-olds will get 15 hours per week during term time, which can be used in private nurseries, state-run pre-schools or childminders, with children from nine months included from September.
  • The expansion should be fully rolled out by September 2025.
  • Families claiming universal credit (UC) who aren’t using the tax-free childcare scheme can receive up to 85% of their childcare costs back.
  • UC recipients can claim £951 each month for childcare for one child, and £1,630 for two children or more.
  • For more, please visit the BBC News website.

Children’s hearing changes ‘could threaten victim’s rights’ 

  • A bill is being considered at Holyrood which would change the definition of “child” to include 16 and 17-year-olds.
  • The Scottish government said it could cut reoffending by keeping more young people out of the adult justice system.
  • Despite this, concerns have been raised regarding the impact on victims, and that this focuses on supporting offenders.
  • The Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill is currently at stage two in the Scottish Parliament.
  • Retired sheriff David Mackie, reported: “All that we are doing is extending to 16- and 17-year-olds, who are children by any definition of the word, what we’ve known since the early 1960s, when the Kilbrandon report made recommendations for the formation of our children’s hearing system.”
  • He continued: “It said that children who become involved in conflict with the law and become involved in offending behaviour can more profitably be dealt with by addressing their needs and not their deeds.”
  • A Scottish government spokesperson reported that the action to improve the experiences of child victims and their families was a priority.
  • For more, please visit the BBC News website.