A strategy report for the EU has outlined several ideas and a plan that it believes will provide a safer internet for children.
The EU report clearly states that children in respect to the report are all those under 18, and it does assert that cultural differences will exist between member states. A key point made in the report is that parental controls should not just be an on/off system, but rather something that parents can tailor to suit the age of the children in their household. An example can be drawn from the level of blocking some parental controls offer, where a child safe setting generally blocks all news websites, search engines and the HTTPS protocol, thus almost ensuring no inappropriate content can be accidentally accessed.
If the UK were to implement a filter to this extent at the network level, which if trying to protect five to ten year olds is what you should ideally use, then parents will have to be turning the filter off and back on again every time they want to access their online banking, read news or buy anything online.
One aspect of the EU report that is going to draw attention is a proposal for electronic indentification and authentication, to control access to age appropriate material. This is featured in relation of age-appropriate privacy settings, and we presume would result in many more sites using credit card details to verify someone is an adult, before allowing them to move away from child-safe settings. The question really is will people be willing to share credit card details with a site when they have no intention of spending money on it.
Industry is expected to
- implement43 transparent default age-appropriate privacy settings, with clear information and warnings to minors of the potential consequences of any changes they make in their default privacy settings and contextual information on the privacy level of every piece of information required or suggested to set up an online profile.
- implement technical means for electronic identification and authentication.
Member States should
- proposed a new data protection regulation that takes specific account of children's privacy and introduces the "right to be forgotten".
- intends to propose in 2012 a pan-European framework for electronic authentication that will enable the use of personal attributes (age in particular) to ensure compliance with the age provisions of the proposed data protection regulation.
- will support R&D to develop technical means for electronic identification and authentication on relevant services across the EU and their deployment.
- ensure the implementation of EU legislation in this field at national level.
- encourage the adoption of self-regulatory measures by industry and follow their implementation at national level.
- support awareness raising activities at national level.Report extract: 2.3.1. Age-appropriate privacy settings
The reference to R&D suggests that the EU is looking at something more than credit card controls, and to our mind sounds more like an EU wide online identity scheme. These carries concerns over tracking what people view online, and a single identity presents a security risk as if it were hijacked you could easily impersonate a third party. For services operating outside the EU, requirements like this would still apply if the service was aimed at people in the EU. Which raises a question, would sites outside the EU that refuse to comply be blocked at EU borders?
A common joke in the UK has been that the Internet will require a license to access it at some point, reports like this make this outlandish idea seem credible.