(No.116) An industry lead approach for making internet a better place for kids

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Workshop Theme: 
Security, Openness and Privacy
Theme Question: 

Question 6

Concise Description of Workshop: 

 Margareta Traung, the European Commission It is generally agreed that the Internet is a place of opportunities for children but that they need to be empowered to make the most of it. In May 2012 the European Commission adopted a Communication that sets out a coherent EU-wide strategy to provide concrete measures for all children, parents and teachers across Europe in 4 main areas: stimulation of high quality content and services for children; stepping up awareness and empowerment through education and participation; creating a safer online environment for children online and fighting against child sexual abuse material online.(http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/12/445&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en [1])
The implementation of the Communication relies on a combination of instruments including self-regulation through fora a such as the CEO Coalition to make internet a better place for children set up by VP Kroes in December 2011  (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/1485&forma... [2]).
Given the fast changing nature of new technologies and online services and patterns of their use by children, industry has a particularly important role to play in developing and implementing measures in this field. The Coalition is formed by 31 leading tech and media companies who work for providing both children and parents with transparent and consistent protection tools of all sort and not merely technical, to make the most of the online world. The purpose of the workshop would be to:
* Give an overview of the European strategy for making a better internet for children and of the ongoing self-regulatory process
* Showcase the work and initiatives of the CEO Coalition with particular focus on the actions on age-appropriate privacy settings (led by Facebook) and parental controls (led by Nokia).
* Share good practices and the lessons learnt from the process by examining the role and responsibility of different actors, barriers for cooperation and how they can be tackled.
* The session will also seek to approach the issue on how to find the right balance between empowerment/protection of children and freedom of expression. [1]
The objective of the session is to give an overview of the European strategy for making a better internet for children by showcasing some of the work and initiatives of the CEO Coalition. The aim is also to touch upon the lessons learnt from the process as well as addressing the issue of finding the right balance between empowerment/protection and freedom of expression.

11.00 -11.07

                      Welcome and introduction by the EC

11:07 – 11.18

Veronica Donoso – EUkidsonline network
Setting the scene by:
- presenting the findings of the EUkidsonline survey that are relevant to
- parental control tools/age-appropriate settings/online privacy

11.18 – 11.26

Microsoft – Cornelia Kutterer
- Does industry have a responsibility for making parental control tools available?
- How can the take-up of parental controls increase? Could active choice be an option? What progress has been made on this in the CEO Coalition?
- What is industry's role in self-regulation?

11.26 – 11.34

Google – Marc Pancini
- Google's contribution to the work of the CEO Coalition to the actions on
parental control controls / age-appropriate privacy settings
- What are the barriers for cooperation in a self-regulatory process and how they can be tackled?

11.34 – 11.41

Facebook – Richard Allen
- Does industry have a responsibility to implement age-appropriate privacy settings? Could privacy by default be an option? What progress has been made on this in the CEO Coalition?
- What are the lessons learnt from the self-regulatory process?

11.41 – 11.48

Jim Killock – Open Rights Group
- How to find the right balance between empowerment/protection of children and freedom of expression?

11.48 – 11.56

John Carr – eNACSO
- What rights do children have in the online world?
- What is the role of NGOs in the self-regulatory process? How can they contribute to the process?

11.56 – 12.04

Sevinj Muradova – Ministry of Economic Development
- young people use of communication technologies in Azerbaijan
- ongoing initiatives / cooperation between different actors 

12.04 – 12.11

Peter Matjasic – European Youth Forum
- the voice of the young people

12.11 – 12.30

Comments from the youth representatives (in the audience) / questions and response from the floor


Organiser(s) Name: 

European Commission, DG INFSO (Alina Radu and Margareta Traung) together with Researchers, ICT companies (members of the CEO coalition) and NGO's

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

Richard Allan, Facebook (confirmed) Marco Pancini, European Senior Policy Counsel (confirmed) Peter Matjasic, European Youth Forum (confirmed) Ms Sabine van Verheyen, MEP, European Parliament (confirmed) Veronica Donoso, Child Focus (confirmed) John Carr, eNACSO (confirmed) Jim Killock, Open Rights Group (confirmed) Sevinj Muradova, Ministry of Economic Development Azerbaijan, ISWM Project (confirmed) John McNamee, European Digital Rights (confirmed) Cornelia Kutterer, Microsoft (confirmed) One youth representative from eNacso (confirmed, name TBD)

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Camino Manjon, DG INFSO, European Commission
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
About half of the participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Reported by: 
Margareta Traung, the European Commission
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

Veronica Donoso (Childfocus) set the scene by presenting some of the findings from the EU Kids Online survey conducted in 27 European countries in 2010 to investigate the risks and opportunities that children encounter online. The findings show that:

  • Children and parents are concerned about the same issues. They worry that the children will be contacted by strangers while they are online and that they will come across inappropriate content.
  • Few children use reporting tools as they don't find them user-friendly.
  • Not all children use privacy settings for their profiles on social media. For some this is by choice, but there are also issues regarding their user-friendliness. The settings are hard to use and there is a lack of consistency between different services.
  • Parental controls are being used especially for parents of younger children for whom the tools seem to be effective. However, the tools don't seem to be effective for older children.

Cornelia Kutterer, explained that Microsoft takes child safety seriously and has safeguards and tools for parents allowing them to avoid access to inappropriate content and limit the use of the computer, for example, in regards the time spent online. Microsoft has also done extensive interviews with parents to find out why parental control tools are being insufficiently used. One reason is that children can be tough negotiators so some parents just let go after some time. But it might also relate to the age - some parents don't want to control their children and prefer to talk to them instead of restricting the access. In most countries, a fairly high percentage of parents preferred not to put restrictions in place. However, this doesn't say that the tools shouldn't be available. The concept of active choice was also mentioned, and although it was not defined precisely what this would mean in the European context, it could be an opportunity for parents to make the decision as to whether they want to install parental tools or not.
Marco Pancini (Google) presented the work done by the Coalition's action group on providing simple and robust reporting tools. This group has collected the practices within the industry, which show that some companies provide reporting tools at the browser level and some through an application. In order to further explore how service providers can provide simple reporting tools for users, a workshop was organised bringing together hotlines and helplines with industry representatives.
The Coalition working group on age appropriate privacy settings has also collected best practices from the members. However, according to Richard Allen (Facebook), it will not be possible to achieve a common unified model for privacy settings. He further said that "when people are not surprised by who sees their information, then you have succeeded with the privacy settings"; you need to tell people up-front what will happen when they apply certain settings.  However, social networks cover the whole spectrum of people and content so there is a challenge as to how to design privacy settings.  Also, privacy by default wouldn't work both because of the complexity and because one reason for being on social networks is that you want to broaden your network. The question is to what extent people need to protect themselves.
What did the Coalition members learn from the process?
Marco Pancini answered that to get companies to cooperate you need to build trust. Richard Allan agreed that trust is important to make it work since you have to show your weaknesses and admit that you don't have all the answers. Cornelia Kutterer added that some of the actions put forward in the Coalition are of less interest to Microsoft since they already have safeguards in place, for example for the Xbox and Xbox live where they are built-in by design.
Jim Killock (Open Rights Forum) took the view that governments have to take an overall responsibility for protecting children online. The European Commission was criticised for pointing to education but still asking for self- regulation, which can be problematic. How you use child filters is now becoming a problem for every adult in the UK since they are going to be applied for everybody because of the active choice on parental control tools. Jim Killock warned that a toxic situation could develop that would spill over to immediate reaction without the proper gathering of evidence. He warns that self-regulation can spill off to blocking areas other than child protection.  He also pointed out that children do need access to all sorts of information which some parents and schools deny them.
Referring to this last remark, Cornelia Kutterer stressed that parental controls should be adapted to the age of the child with white lists for the youngest users and less restrictions for older children.
John Carr pointed out that in Europe a child has the right to its own privacy and that the cultural and legal environment in the US is different. He further said that human rights law doesn't mean zero regulation and that states have an obligation under international law to protect children. John Carr has been waiting for a market-led solution since the mid-nineties, but the only solution provided so far is education and awareness. He therefore believes that the market will not solve all the problems and those who need to be protected the most will not be reached by the awareness raising. Where is, for example, the market-led solution for the 3 and 4 year olds who need technical solutions in order to be protected?
Sevinj Muradova represented the Azeri NGO "Nur" Children and Youth Public Union, which has worked on child participation and empowerment since 1997. The internet is something new in Azerbaijan and Internet safety is a priority. Children in rural areas need special attention. Civil society can be a great help to engage with young people and plays an important role for the social development and inclusion of young people. Media is seen as a source for entertainment, mobile technologies is widely adopted and most mobile operators provide internet access for free.
Peter Matjasic (the European Youth Forum) agreed with the previous speakers that children are a particularly vulnerable group but argued that the preferred solution could be empowerment with a tailored approach for different age groups. He agreed that age maturity is an important concept and that some restrictions should be in place up to a certain age, but emphasised that full transparency is important. He also pointed out that parents are not always the best placed to make decisions for their children and that not only children need to "think before they post". He suggested investing in media literacy programmes and said that peer learning can play a role.

Conclusions and further comments: 
  • All measures have to be evaluated in order to understand their impact and the academic world has an important role to play in order to inform policy makers;
  • Education is the best filter;
  • Stop obsessing and look at children as individuals with rights and don't put all children in the same box;
  • Technology tools are helpful but they are not the only solution - continued dialogue with the child is also needed;
  • If there are good national structures in place, rapid solutions can be found when needed and the legislative route can be avoided;
  • Parents still have the main influence on their kids;
  • Better communication about success stories, for example by setting up a platform for sharing best practice;
  • Online safety is a shared responsibility, and we need to ensure that young people are integrally involved in shaping, but also learn to respect, the “rules in the sandbox”.