Social networking sites do not have a clear access for minors to privacy information

The European Commission presented a report in which 14 social networking sites have been tested. The main goal is to evaluate whether they do give minors age-appropriate safety information, respond to requests for help and prevent minors' profiles from being searched via external search engines. According to the report, only two social networking sites (Bebo and MySpace) protect privacy of minors' profiles by default.

The report published by the Commission is based in the implementation of the "Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU", a self-regulatory agreement brokered by the Commission in 2009 to keep children safe online. So far, 21 companies have signed the Safer Social Networking Principles to date: Arto, Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Giovani, Google, Hyves, Microsoft Europe, MySpace, Nasza-klasa, Netlog, One, Rate, Skyrock, VZnet Netzwerke, Stardoll, Sulake, Tuenti, Yahoo! Europe and Zap. The report has the conclusions of the 14 social networking sites tested between December 2010 and January 2011. Among the conclusions, only 4 sites ensure minors can be contacted by default by friends only (Bebo, MySpace, Netlog and SchuelerVZ). In addition, in the report it is stated that the number of minors in these sites in the EU is growing - currently 77% of 13-16 year olds and 38% of 9-12 year olds who use the Internet.

The Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, stated that she is disappointed that most social networking sites are failing to ensure that minors' profiles are accessible only to their approved contacts by default. Ms Kroes also highlighted that she will urge them to make a clear commitment to remedy this in a revised version of the self-regulatory framework we are currently discussing. She also underlined that today youngsters do not fully understand the consequences of disclosing too much of their personal lives online.

In this evaluation, the Commission reminds that besides the privacy, there are other risks for minors such as the possibility of tagging people in pictures, which is offered by most social networking services, makes it very easy to search for a person's photos online. Teenagers may face other risks online such as grooming and cyber-bullying. Therefore, children and teenagers need appropriate safety tools to manage their online identity in a responsible way.