50% of teenagers post personal information on the web without always being aware of the consequences, study shows.
A year after the commission brokered a safer internet deal with 18 leading web companies, a progress report shows mixed results.
Under the voluntary agreement, the companies promised to put in place safeguards to protect children using any of 25 social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Two other firms joined them in June.
A year on, most companies now offer the option to block users, remove unwanted content and decide who can view what. The majority also provide safety tips targeted to minors, although in some cases the information is either difficult to find or hard to understand.
But the commission report, marking Safer Internet Day, also shows that more than half the companies have not followed through on promises to ensure the default setting for online profiles and contact lists is “private” for users under 18. Moreover, many sites still allow search engines to find profiles of minors. And while most sites now provide a link for users to report harassment, few routinely respond to complaints.
“Last year the European commission urged companies to act, and I am glad that many have heeded this call,” information society commissioner Viviane Reding said. “However, I expect all companies to do more.”
A separate study by the European information security agency recommends ways to minimise the risks of posting information online.
Social networking sites are increasingly popular, especially among young people. These digital warehouses of private information encourage users to feel that they're among a close set of friends when in fact there could be millions of people reading about them. But users run the risk of strangers, including online advertisers and sexual predators, gaining access to them.
The EU is concerned with internet safety because privacy and protection of personal data are rights enshrined in European law.