Social networking self-regulation isn't working says EU

Only two social networking sites protect minors' profiles by default, researchers found

Only two social networking sites make minors' profiles private by default, according to a test of 14 such sites conducted for the European Commission.

The test aimed to find out whether the sites were complying with the E.U.'s Safer Social Networking Principles, a self-regulatory agreement that they signed up to in 2009.

Only Bebo and MySpace have default settings to make minors' profiles more private.

"I am disappointed that most social networking sites are failing to ensure that minors' profiles are accessible only to their approved contacts by default. I will be urging them to make a clear commitment to remedy this in a revised version of the self-regulatory framework. Youngsters do not fully understand the consequences of disclosing too much of their personal lives online," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The Commission's tests were carried out between December 2010 and January 2011 on Arto, Bebo, Facebook, Giovani, Hyves, Myspace, Nasza-klaza, Netlog, One, Rate, VZnet, Galleria, Tuenti and Zap. Researchers tested the sites in their main language (for example, Tuenti was tested by a Spanish-speaking researcher and Rate by an Estonian-speaking researcher) and found that while most provide basic safety information, this is difficult to find on many sites.

Currently 77 percent of 13-16 year olds and 38 percent of 9-12 year olds who use the Internet are on social networking sites.

Around 65 percent of 13-16 year olds and 34 percent of 11-12 year olds who use the Internet know how to change the privacy settings on a social networking profiles, according to the EU Kids Online study, published in January.

The possibility of tagging people in pictures, offered by most social networking services, makes it very easy to search for someone's photos online. Ten of the sites tested allowed potential strangers (so-called 'friends' of friends') to contact minors through personal messages or comments on their public profiles, increasing the risks of online grooming or cyber-bullying.

In the case of Facebook, researchers found that although the reporting mechanisms for inappropriate content or behavior are easy to use, Facebook does not react expeditiously to user reports and that when signed in to Facebook as minor, some of the adverts displayed on the profile could be considered inappropriate.

Users must be 13 or older to use Facebook, but this relies on self-declaration. When trying to register as a nine-year-old, permission was denied and it was not possible to immediately re-register as older from that machine. However, it was possible to re-register once the browser was closed down and reopened. No parental control devices are available on Facebook.

A further nine companies -- Dailymotion, Google, Microsoft Europe, Skyrock, Netzwerke, Stardoll, Sulake, Yahoo Europe and Wer-kennt-wen -- have also signed the Safer Social Networking Principles and will be tested later this year.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GalleriaMySpaceTuentiArtoRatesocial networkinginternetprivacyFacebookZapNetlogGiovanibeboVZnetsecurityHyvesOneInternet-based applications and servicesNasza-klaza

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?