Social networks aren’t doing enough to protect children online, European Commission says

Social networks aren’t doing enough to protect children online, European Commission says

The European Commission has criticised social networking sites for failing to do enough to protect children’s privacy.

In tests carried out by the Commission on nine sites, only two had default settings which made minors’ profiles available only to their approved contacts – in other words, profiles for kids that are public by default are bad news, it believes.

Only youth-focused Habbo Hotel and Microsoft’s gaming network Xbox Live hide minors’ profiles from public view automatically. Meanwhile, only two of the nine (DailyMotion and Windows Live) ensure that minors can only be sent public or private messages by friends. That said, the study found that the majority of sites tested did give age-appropriate safety information, guidance and/or educational materials.

The list of sites tested is a little surprising. YouTube; Flickr; Xbox Live; Windows Live; Yahoo Pulse; Daily Motion; blogging site Skyrock, and virtual worlds Habbo Hotel and Stardoll all made the list – but no Facebook? That said, the test was designed to take in examples of different kinds of social networks rather than being all-encompassing. Still, missing off the largest social network in the world still seems a little odd.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, believes that social networking sites need to take their responsibilities towards children seriously. She is set to launch a “comprehensive strategy” for Internet safety, using “a combination of protective and empowerment measures.” This is part of the Commission’s wider Digital Agenda strategy..

In 2009, the European Commission launched Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU, a self-regulatory agreement designed to promote child safety online. At present, 21 companies are signed up: Arto, Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Giovani, Google, Hyves, Microsoft Europe, MySpace, Nasza-klasa, Netlog, One, Rate, Skyrock, VZnet Netzwerke, Stardoll, Sulake, Tuenti, Wer-kennt-wen, Yahoo! Europe and Zap.

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