Europe wants to raise the 'age of consent' for children to use the internet to 16
The European Parliament is set to vote on an amendment to proposed European data protection regulation that would force companies to seek the permission of underage users' parental guardians, and police their services for unauthorised use by children.
The new amendment to the rules, which have been worked on since 2012, reads: "The processing of personal data of a child below the age of 16 years shall only be lawful if and to the extent that such consent is given or authorised by the holder of parental responsibility over the child."
It could be a significant blow to tech companies like Snapchat that have a large proportion of teenage users, throwing up extra legislative hurdles to jump through.
As it currently stands, Europe operates a digital age of consent of 13, and platforms like Facebook don't allow people under that age to use them. In the US, the Children's online privacy protect act (or COPPA) mandates extra rules around protections for children under 13.
According to The Guardian's report, until this recent amendment was introduced, the data protection law would have set this age of consent in Europe at 13.
Critics have attacked the proposal. Janice Richardson, an expert at the Council of Europe, said in a statement: "We feel that moving the requirement for parental consent from age 13 to age 16 would deprive young people of educational and social opportunities in a number of ways, yet would provide no more (and likely even less) protection. wish to protest in the strongest terms and request that you urgently reconsider this decision."
The Financial Times is reporting that Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all voiced their opposition to the proposed rules.
But others are more positive, arguing it will force companies to explain better what they do with user data. "Social media firms could [not] continue 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," Rachel O'Donnel, who works for consultancy Trust Elevate, told the BBC.
"This would require companies to be transparent with both parents and young people about how their data will be processed."
The New York Times reports that a decision is expected late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
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