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Friday, September 30, 2011
EC: Social Networks Can Do Much More to Protect Privacy


Only two out of nine social networking sites (Habbo Hotel and Xbox Live) have default settings which make minors' personal profiles accessible only to their approved list of contacts according to a new round of tests undertaken for the European Commission.

However, a majority of sites tested do give youngsters age-appropriate safety information, guidance and/or educational materials specifically targeted at minors and respond to requests for help.

Two sites (Dailymotion and Windows Live) ensure that minors can only be contacted by default by friends via public or private messages. In all the sites tested, minors can be sent friend requests by anyone. On six of the sites, minors' profiles can be directly accessed by friends of friends. All sites tested provide a shorter and more child-friendly version of their Terms of Use or Service.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: "Young people enjoy and derive great benefits from social networking online but are often not conscious enough of risks such as grooming. Social networking sites need to take seriously their responsibilities towards these youngsters. I intend to address these issues later this year in a comprehensive strategy on making the internet a safer place for children through a combination of protective and empowerment measures."

The report looks specifically at implementation of the "Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU" by blogging (Skyrock) and gaming (Xbox Live) platforms, photo and video sharing platforms (YouTube, Dailymotion, Flickr), virtual worlds (Habbo Hotel, Stardoll), platforms that have some social networking functionalities (Windows Live) and platforms that allow the creation of personal profiles with the possibility of uploading blog entries, photos and updates (Yahoo! Pulse). The tests were carried out between March and June 2011.

The Commission is reviewing protection of minors online from such risks as grooming and cyber-bullying as part of the objective set by the Digital Agenda for Europe to enhance trust in the Internet. The results of the two surveys of implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles will be taken into account by the Commission in a comprehensive initiative to empower and protect children when using new technologies due later this year.


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