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Question parlementaire - E-1359/2010(ASW)Question parlementaire
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Answer given by Ms Kroes on behalf of the Commission

The Commission shares the Honourable Member's concern regarding the potential risks young people may face online, and especially on social networking sites, a service that has developed very quickly and has been largely adopted by youngsters.

In order to address this concern, the Commission, in the framework of the Safer Internet Programme, has facilitated the signature of the first European self-regulatory agreement on social networking by 20 companies. These companies recognised their responsibility and identify potential risks on their sites for under 18s. They aim to limit these risks by a number of specific measures, such as having minors' profile visible only to their approved list of contacts by default; making minors' profiles non-searchable via common search engines; making privacy options prominent and accessible at all times, and providing an easy to use ‘report abuse’ button. All 20 signatories have provided the Commission with a self-declaration, which shows how they have implemented the Principles.

The Commission is monitoring the implementation of this agreement very closely. On 9 February 2010, the Commission published an evaluation report[1] of implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles[2] based on an analysis of the companies' safety policies and testing of the respective sites by independent experts. The report shows that most of these companies have taken action and empowered minors by making it easier to change privacy settings, block users or delete unwanted comments and content. Yet more needs to be done since only 40 % of the companies make profiles of under-18 users visible only to their friends by default and only one third replied to user reports asking for help.

The Commission will follow-up on an individual basis with each company where more efforts are needed to fully implement specific parts of the social networking principles.

Even though this self-regulatory approach is based on voluntary action by the industry, EC laws on personal data protection do apply to social networking sites. Directive 95/46/EC[3] of the Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (‘Data Protection Directive’) is a legal instrument of horizontal application, and as such applies in the context of the Internet and social networking.

The Commission has launched a thorough review of the Data Protection Directive and the general data protection regulatory framework, with a view to modernising data protection rules in all EU activities, creating a more coherent legal framework, and facilitating the implementation and enforcement of legislation.