EU lays out tech child protection plans

Kroes moots default parental controls

Stewart Mitchell
1 Dec 2011

Technology companies and service providers are to push child protection measures - including parental controls and content classification - under a scheme launched by the European Union.

According to the EU, 28 tech companies - including Apple, Google, BT, BSkyB, Facebook and Microsoft - have joined forces in the “Coalition to make a better and safer internet for children”.

The companies have agreed to work towards producing industry standards in five key areas – better reporting tools, age-approporiate privacy settings, content classification, parental controls and improved take-down of child abuse images.

“Child safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Neelie Kroes vice-president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda.

Internet-connected devices should have parental controls installed also by default, age-rating and content classification systems need improvement

“I want children, parents and teachers to have simple, transparent and consistent protection tools to deal with these risks while making the most of this online world.”

The announcement follows plans discussed in an October meeting where Kroes bemoaned poor child protection standards.

“Internet-connected devices should have parental controls installed also by default, age-rating and content classification systems need improvement — including common standards and the possibility for user-driven classification,” she said at the time.

“And we need to step up the fight against child sex abuse material. I find it appalling that it takes so much time to take down child sexual abuse content, when in other areas, for example related to copyright, content is taken down quickly.”

Action plan

The first fruits of the plans were announced today, with companies as diverse as browser manufacturer Opera, Nintendo and Vodafone pledging support.

Vodafone showed off a Vodafone Guardian parental control app for Android handsets that it said would help parents lock down certain functions on handsets.

The company described the tool as “a free-to-download Android app which puts protecting young people from unwanted calls and texts, or inappropriate use of the internet, firmly in the hands of parents and carers”.

According to Vodafone, the app could not be uninstalled or have permissions altered without sending a notification to parents.

“Through Vodafone Guardian, parents can choose who can call or text their child, even restrict access during specified times, such as school hours,” Vodafone claims.

“Other phone functions such as accessing the camera, the internet or Bluetooth can also be ‘timetabled’ or blocked altogether.”

Read more about: