Internet : Protection of Minors: Social Networks Have Poor Record

European Social Policy, July 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

Internet : Protection of Minors: Social Networks Have Poor Record


Of 14 social networks tested, the American sites Bebo and MySpace are the exceptions: they are the only ones that have default settings to make the profiles of users under age 18 accessible only to their approved list of contacts. This is the key finding of a report by the European Commission, published on 21 June. Facebook, the leader in the sector, which is criticised for its privacy protection problems, does not do particularly well.

Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes is "disappointed" with the findings. "I will be urging [social networks] to make a clear commitment to remedy this in a revised version of the self-regulatory framework we are currently discussing. This is not only to protect minors from unwanted contacts but also to protect their online reputation," she warned.

The Commission and 21 companies that have signed the Safer social networking principles' are working to strengthen this voluntary agreement, concluded in 2009, to improve the protection of minors online. These principles do not at present explicitly state that social networks must include default settings, like Bebo and MySpace, that ensure that minors' profiles are only accessible to their approved contacts. The Commission hopes to have this included in the revised version. Its aim is also to extend these principles to game consoles and smart phones.

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