Protecting children’s privacy online: a critical look to four European self-regulatory initiatives
This article examines the rise of self-regulatory initiatives as private governance mechanisms adopted by the Internet industry in the EU to protect children’s privacy online. It analyses four specific initiatives focusing on procedural (rule formulation, monitoring, enforcement) and organizational (organizational structures, role of public actors) aspects, in order to reflect on the strengths and shortcomings of the self-regulatory process. The analysis shows significant limitations of self-regulation in the area of online child safety, characterized by broadly formulated statements and unmeasurable commitments, limited monitoring mechanisms and often inexistent sanctions. It is argued that sector-specific, institutionalized European codes of conduct, which disentangle protection of online safety and privacy as policy aims, could better safeguard the privacy of children in the dynamic multi-jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder dominated online environment.
Keywords: children; European Union; online risks; privacy; self-regulation; soft law