After more than one year involving hard work by many companies in the new technologies sector, companies as diverse as search engines, mobile handset manufacturers, social networks, ISPs, telecom operators, etc., the principles governing the safe use of Internet-connected devices and services by children and young people in the European Union have been published today.
During this time, the 25 signatory companies have jointly analysed the various services that we provide to minors on the market to identify those areas for improvement. The result is a high-level working guide that will involve specific and major initiatives.
What do the ICT Principles involve? With these principles we have finally succeeded in drafting the same rules of the game for all, unifying our commitments to a common priority: ensuring better use of the Internet by European children and adolescents without differentiating for services, applications, terminals used, etc. This priority is highlighted in the 3rd Pillar of the Digital Agenda for Europe (Trust and Security). In particular, Action 37 (Self-regulation of European and global service providers as regards use by minors) intends to “Foster multi-stakeholder dialogue and self-regulation of European and global service providers (e.g. social networking platforms, mobile communications providers), especially as regards use of their services by minors.”
Agreeing on these commitments has not been an easy task due to the complexity of the value chain in the ICT/digital sector today. For example, an initiative to increase customer privacy does not have the same impact and will not be implemented in the same way for a social network as it will for a telecommunications operator or a manufacturer of mobile phones. However, in order to achieve efficiency, some appropriate minimums are required in all these links.
The truth of the matter is that while we were creating these Principles, the European Commission was closely following us, announcing in December the Coalition of the CEOs, which is pursuing very similar goals and also brings together a wide spectrum of companies, the majority of which are in agreement with the signatories of the ICT principles (as is the case with Telefónica). We will not duplicate any initiatives that are moving forward in parallel rather we will join efforts to achieve this common objective that we have set for ourselves, i.e. to offer the best possible environment for children on the Internet.
The areas in which we are going to be working are the following:
- Content: clearly identifying the age for which they are intended
- Parental control: promote its use for all devices and types of Internet connections
- Combating any content with images of sexual abuse of children on the Internet
- Systems for reporting illegal content
- Increased awareness of the need to protect privacy by and for the user
- Education involving the proper use of ICTs to avoid any improper use.
We must also mention the collaboration of industry associations, such as GSMA, ETNO and Digital Europe, which have strived to watch over the interests of the entire industry, to mediate, manage, etc.
From now on, we have a period of 18 months expressly coinciding with the time frame for the Coalition of CEOs, to implement measures and provide the initial results for the development and application of both initiatives. We only need to start actively working in order to translate these agreements into reality whose end results we will all be able to see by mid-2013.