The EDPS supports the Community Programme “Safer Internet”

The Official Journal of the European Union has publisehd on January, 7th, 2009, the favourable Opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor on the Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a multiannual Community programme on protecting children using the Internet and other communication technologies.

The new multi annual Community programme on protecting children using the Internet and other communication technologies - "Safer Internet", is presented in the continuity of the Programmes aiming to enhance chidren safety when using the Internet Safer Internet (1999-2004) and the Safer Internet Plus programme (2005-2008).

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) supports the proposal for a multi annual programme to protect children using the Internet and other communication technologies. He welcomes the fact that this programme intends to focus on the development of new technologies and on the elaboration of concrete actions to enhance the effectiveness of the protection of children.

The EDPS notes that this programme constitutes a general framework for further concrete actions and recommends that data protection authorities be closely involved when it comes to the definition of these practical projects.

Main elements of the EDPS Opinion

  • The EDPS fully supports the objective of the programme and the orientations defined in order to enhance the protection of children online. In particular, reducing illegal or harmful content and raising awareness of children and other actors involved are decisive measures which should be further developed. The EDPS wishes to recall that an appropriate protection of the personal information of the child is an essential preliminary step to ensure safety while being online, and considers as essential to raise the awareness of the child as to the risks linked with a spontaneous communication of personal details such as real name, age or place of residence.
  • One of the points of the Programme includes as one of its main actions the provision of contact points for reporting online illegal content and harmful conduct. The EDPS notes nevertheless that the notion of harmful content remains unclear: no indication is given on who is responsible for defining what harmful content is, and according to what criteria. This is all the more worrying considering the implications of a possible reporting of such content.
  • The use of technical tools is promoted as one of the solutions to deal with illegal content and harmful conduct. The EDPS has already taken a clear position in favour of the use of new technologies to enhance the protection of the rights of individuals. He considers that the principle of “privacy by design” should constitute an inherent part of technological development which implies the processing of personal data, and therefore strongly encourages the development of projects aiming at developing technologies in that sense.
  • Relating to the implication of the industry in the Safer Internet Programme, responsible for the provision of telecommunication and content services, the industry in this sector could have some influence on the reporting, filtering or blocking of information when it is considered as illegal or harmful. The extent to which it can actually be entrusted with such a task, in a legal perspective, could nevertheless lead to discussion.