European Lawmakers Pressing Social Networks On Privacy, Kids’ Safety

European lawmakers are waving research data under web services’ noses, in their ongoing efforts to legislate safeguards for those who use social networks and other websites…

“Only two social networking sites (Bebo and MySpace) … have default settings to make minors’ profiles accessible only to their approved list of contacts,” according to a new report for the European Commission on implementing the continent-wide Safer Social Networking Principles, which were signed in 2009 by 21 services including Facebook.

The EC’s digital agenda VP Neelie Kroes, who now aims to revise the principles as a response, declared herself “disappointed” sites aren’t meeting this threshold. But 14 social networks tested do give minors age-appropriate safety information, respond to requests for help and prevent minors’ profiles from being searched via external search engines.

Perhaps a boost to Facebook’s ambitions to open to under-13s – the research found Facebook is amongst the sites which has terms of use that are easy for minors to understand

It’s not just kids the EC is looking out for. According to a separate privacy survey commissioned by it, “70 percent (of social networkers and online shoppers) said they were concerned about how companies use this data and they think that they have only partial, if any, control of their own data. 74 percent want to give their specific consent before their data is collected and processed on the internet.”

In November, the EC declared it would strengthen its 16-year-old data protection directive to give consumers more control. One result was a recent ruling that web operators must explicitly inform users when their data is being kept in cookies.