Age verification in the EU moving forward

The Advisory Board of euConsent held its first meeting last week.

euConsent aims to deliver a framework of standards which will encourage the development of a pan-European network of providers of online age verification and parental consent mechanisms.

Hugely important – global significance

It is hard to overstate the impact this project could have on the way the internet is used not just in Europe but potentially around the world. Many honest efforts by Regulators to protect children online have found it difficult to solve several key challenges which are rooted in the transnational nature of the medium. One of the most obvious and pressing concerned age verification. The European Commission recognised a pan-European solution is required. They ran a competition to select a team to tackle the problem. euConsent was the result.

Highest levels of data security

With euConsent a solution is in sight. Users will be able to verify their age or give consent for their children to use a site or service without disclosing their identity. All age verification providers who are part of the network will be independently audited to certified levels of assurance. Lawmakers, services, and Regulators can choose how and where the requirements will be applied. All providers will operate to the highest standards of data security.

If it is to be a success such an important project needs vigorous and rigorous scrutiny as it progresses through its different phases.  An Advisory Board has been established and I agreed to be its Chair.  The Board comprises representatives of a wide range of stakeholders: European regulatory authorities, children’s rights organizations, tech companies and politicians.  We held our inaugural meeting last Friday.

The Board will hold the project team accountable, helping them as they establish the standards. The Board’s collective and individual insights will contribute to a system that is workable with existing technology and facilitates the creation and implementation of effective regulations. Any new technologies which may emerge will know what they must be able to do if they are to be recognised as an acceptable tool.

Research evidence

Our first meeting was very encouraging. The initial research phase of euConsent has been conducted by academics from Leiden University, Aston University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, supplemented by further work from the Age Verification Providers’ Association, and the research firm Revealing Reality. These groups presented their key findings to the Advisory Board who were impressed by the scope of what has been done so far. Board member Anna Morgan, Deputy Commissioner at the Irish Data Protection Commission, found the evidence-based foundations of the project really promising. Almudena Lara of Google was pleased the opinions of children themselves are being sought and listened to in the research conducted by Revealing Reality.

Having such a spread of experts all gathered in the same Zoom produced a series of lively interchanges which were immensely valuable! Even at this early stage some key issues were raised. Negotiating the tension between data privacy and child protection lies at the heart of what we are trying to do, and how to cope with the already existing different regulatory approaches across jurisdictions is no less important.

I am looking forward to engaging with the Advisory Board further as euConsent’s technical solutions are developed and released over the coming months.

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
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