What is euCONSENT?
euCONSENT is a European Commission funded project to develop an EU-wide network for completing online age verification and securing parental consent when younger children wish to share personal data. The aim of this ground-breaking system is to protect children from harm on the web, particularly age-restricted goods, content and services while promoting their rights to the opportunities the internet offers.
Will proving my age or the age of my children, or using the system to give consent as a parent to my child sharing their data, cost me money?
The project does not deal with the commercial arrangements for the market in these services. It is purely concerned with how different providers of age checks and parental consent can share those checks with one another so you do not need to repeat the full process for every website you use.
At present, we are unaware of any providers of either of these services who do charge consumers. Generally, it is the online services which are being accessed that fund the cost of these checks.
Will it be 100% effective?
In general, the checks the system will be supporting need only be done as rigorously as the risks to children they are addressing require. So, for some higher risk situations such as buying a knife online, checks will need to be almost 100% accurate – at least as accurate as you would find in a physical retail store – while for lower risk scenarios, like accessing a PEGI-rated computer game, it may be reasonable to ensure that a child is old enough as long as it is within a year or two of the defined age. The detail of this varies depending on the site’s policies, and the regulations that apply to particular purposes in each Member State – the system will accommodate these variations.
Can I turn it off?
Users are always in control of their data and will need to give consent if they want to take advantage of the new network to reduce the number of times they must prove their age or take action to give consent to share children’s data.
How will age verification work?
There are an ever-increasing number of ways to prove your age online. Different providers of age checks offer different methods. One option is to take a selfie, and then a computer compares it to thousands of images of other people whose age it already knows, and it estimates how old you are by comparison. For an exact answer, you can submit official identification such as a passport, ID card or driving license or give your permission for other databases such as banks or electoral rolls to be checked.
Whichever method you choose, any provider working as part of the new network will be audited to ensure they protect your privacy and data security, and give accurate age checks.
What if I’m not from the EU?
Not a problem. There will be many different ways to verify your age, you do not need to be from the EU.
How will you gain parental consent?
Younger children cannot give permission to websites to use their personal data without their parents giving consent. So the system will aim to contact a child’s parent before any data is shared, and secure their approval for that. It is up to individual providers of parental consent to design how they go about that – our system will make it easier by remembering when a child user has already done this once before, and then using the same contact details to reach their parents (or legal guardian). And it will enable you to withdraw consent if you change your mind.
What if I visit a non-EU country, can I use euCONSENT then?
The internet is a global entity, and age checks are needed in many countries outside the EU. So the system may be used outside of Europe, and some international platforms might make use of it for people worldwide.
Platforms based inside the EU may also use it for their customers wherever they are globally.
Should I no longer use parental controls?
This system will not be a replacement for parental controls. We advise you continue to use them as normal as an effective way to keep children safe online. Also, even using all the technical options, children may still stumble across things that alarm or confuse them, so we always recommend talking to your kids about what they might see and encouraging them to talk to you about anything that worries them.
How long will my age check last?
Sometimes it will be enough to have completed an age check at some point in the past year. On other higher risk occasions, you may need to do a fresh check or simply prove it was you who completed the previous check.
Will I have to prove my age every time I use a website?
No, the aim of the system is to reduce how often you need to prove your age.
Once you prove your age on one website, you may not have to complete another check for 12 months in lower risk situations.
Is my privacy secure?
The euCONSENT system does not hold any personal information at all. In fact, euCONSENT does not really exist as a single entity – there is no computer in a cupboard operating it. That is because it is a network connecting other providers together so they can share checks with each other when you ask them to.
As a result of using euCONSENT providers to prove your age or get parental consent, the websites you visit will not know anything more about you except that you are the right age to use their website. The age verification providers can only retain information you give them permission to hold, and many will anonymise that to make it even safer. And they can only use that data for the purpose you agreed to give it to them which will usually be just to prove your age to websites when you are online.
What happens if there is a data breach on a site I have visited?
The age verification system we are developing reduces the risk of a data breach arising as a result of age checks because the websites you visit do not need to store any data about you to conduct age checks. They just use the euCONSENT system to get an answer to the question – is this user old enough, yes or no?
I don’t want to give my personal details to prove my identity, what can I do?
There are many ways to verify your age so there should be one that you will be comfortable with. For example, some providers estimate your age from a selfie so you don’t need to tell them your name.
Does the website I want to visit know who I am?
No, as a result of the age checking process, the website does not know anything about you other than you are the right age to access it.
Will my information be sold by euCONSENT for any reason?
No, as we do not hold any personal information, we cannot sell it.
At what age does a child no longer need consent to share their personal data from a parent or guardian?
That depends on the EU country you reside in. The age of digital consent ranges from 13-16 in EU Member States.
Will it be against the law to refuse to comply with euCONSENT?
It will be the legal responsibility of the service provider to ensure age verification and parental consent are accurate and correct. euCONSENT is just one way for a service to comply with the law but there is no law requiring you to make use of euCONSENT.
Will it be a criminal offence to lie about my age or the age of a child?
It is not a separate offence in any EU country as far as we are aware, but it could be considered as part of other offenses, such as child abuse, to help a child to access adult-only content online, or a breach of licensing laws to lie so a child can buy goods and services whilst they are underage.
Why is the UK a part of this project if we are no longer in the EU?
As part of the arrangements put in place when the UK decided to leave the EU, organisations in the UK were still able to participate in research and pilot projects of this nature.
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