European Union may take teens off social media

Dec 17, 2015

Dr O’Connell suggests that technologies could be used by social platforms to “offer access without processing under-16’s personal data, ie gathering data, creating psychographic profiles of a young person and selling it to third parties, until they got permission from a parent and young person”.

The proposed rules would have banned 13 to 15-year-olds from online services including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, other social media and messaging services, or anything that processes their data, without explicit consent from a parent or guardian.

Nearly all major social media services, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google, now have a minimum age of 13, in compliance with European and American laws.

The digital age of consent is, according to experts who spoke to the BBC, built into the decisions that many online firms make about the age they will allow people to join.

The amendment has been proposed primarily to stop companies like Facebook from harvesting childrens’ data and using it to sell stuff to them.

The age of consent will be set at 16 in the regulation, but where European Union countries – like the United Kingdom – set out a lower age of consent down to 13 years old, that will be permitted as a derogation from the law. Most social media accounts request dates of birth on setting up accounts, but have no way to verify the information.

Many sites that ban users who are under 18 police that rule by requiring that visitors sign up with a credit card.

The concern is over data protection of minors, although recent terror attacks and concern about radicalization of youth over social media networks doubtless has played a role in the last minute addition of this new rule.

Teenagers access these critical resources in a manner that shows they are, by and large, “very knowledgeable about how to control the information they share online, more so than many adults”, Richardson said.

The law is due to be voted on in the new year and come into force two years late.

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