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euCONSENT regulatory online protection for European children

By Chris Dawson April 23, 2021 - 10:30 am

In a step towards enabling stronger regulatory online protection for European children, a consortium of twelve of the continent’s leading academic institutions, NGOs and technology providers has been awarded EU funding to design, deliver and pilot a new Europe-wide euCONSENT system. This solution will allow service providers to verify the age of their users to protect them from harmful content, and will ensure that younger children have parental consent before they share personal data. The Age Verification Providers Association is a leading member of the team that will deliver this system.

euCONSENT is a European Commission project under the call: “Outline and trial an infrastructure dedicated to the implementation of child rights and protection mechanisms in the online domain based on the GDPR and other existing EU legislation relevant for the child within the online domain”.

The objective of this project, initiated by the European Parliament, is to demonstrate an interoperable technical infrastructure dedicated to the implementation of child protection mechanisms (such as age verification) and parental consent mechanisms as required by relevant EU legislation (such as the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Whilst the UK is no longer in the EU, it’s likely that euCONSENT or a similar framework could be adopted in the UK. A concern is, knowing the EU’s track record on Cookies with horrendously annoying popups on websites, that the EU avoid similar steps to further disrupt general internet browsing. We can all agree that children should be protected, but we can probably also agree that a solution that is useable and doesn’t include adults incessantly clicking on popups should be a pre-requisite.

The euCONSENT solution will be designed with help from children and young people and under the guidance of the continent’s leading academic experts, NGOs and other key stakeholders in child rights and online safety. EU Kids Online, Eurochild and COFACE – FAMILIES EUROPE, amongst others, will provide regular input to the work of the project team, which will be advised by an expert panel, chaired by John Carr OBE, one of the world’s leading authorities on children’s and young people’s use of the internet and digital technologies.

The new system will then be used during a pilot phase by over 1,500 children, young people and parents from at least three EU Member States. Users’ experience will be independently evaluated to provide convincing evidence for this solution to be adopted across the EU, with hundreds of Europe’s kids already positioned as its most enthusiastic advocates to their peers, their parents and EU policymakers.

“We are delighted to have been given a pivotal role in designed a European-wide system to facilitate age verification and parental consent. AVPA members lead the world in this field, and we are keen to share our collective technical expertise with the euCONSENT project team, while benefiting from the views of children across the continent in how to deliver a solution that champions their rights online.”
– Alastair Graham, Co-Chair of the Age Verification Providers Association

“The euCONSENT consortium brings together Europe’s leading academics in the field of child rights, with input from a wide range of NGOs representing parents and children, to help design a Europe-wide system to protect children when they are online. This will be delivered by a first-class team of companies from Europe’s fast-growing Safetytech sector, independently audited and evaluated to give confidence to parents, children, websites, video-sharing platforms and policymakers that euCONSENT can deliver an efficient and effective mechanism to make the internet a safer place for European kids.”
– Kostas Flokas, Programme Director, CEO, Upcom

“Designing a system of child protection for the digital environment that is truly rights-respecting is an important task, and one that many families are calling for. The challenge will be to serve children’s best interests by balancing their rights to protection and safety with their rights to participation, inclusion and privacy, among other rights. It’s great that this project will consult European children from the outset, and be guided by their views also in formulating the project results.”
– Professor Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and Political Science

“The EU is committed to a safer digital environment. Protecting children from age-inappropriate material online, which may damage their safety and well-being, requires more than just ticking a box or entering a fake date of birth. If successful, this project can positively change the lives of many European families, giving parents peace of mind, and allowing the under 18s to fully and safely participate in life online.”
– June Lowery Kingston, Head of Unit Accessibility, Multilingualism & Safer Internet, European Commission

“Public trust and assurance for age verification and parental consent processes across Europe will need to be underpinned by robust standards, an operating framework and clear accountability. By working with the EU’s institutions, international standards bodies and certification schemes, the EU Consent programme will develop and deliver the frameworks needed to secure broad acceptability and confidence.”
– Tony Allen, Founder & CEO, Age Check Certification Scheme

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