The euCONSENT project has been working at speed since March the 1st to build the foundation for a successful outcome. Our primary goal is to ensure that the solution we develop for online parental consent and age verification across Europe is designed from the start with the views and suggestions of children as the driving force. So our main effort so far has been in planning for an extensive consultation exercise. The first step towards this was to conduct background research about the latest state of play in this field. Our academic partners, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Leiden and Aston University have conducted an extensive literature review and are now turning their attention to the detailed legal requirements of each member state. Primary research is led by Revealing Reality which has begun planning recruitment of children, parents and other adults affected by the potential solutions being considered from across the EU. Early research will be qualitative, based on personal interviews with participants. Wider scale quantitative analysis will be applied when there are prototype solutions available.
On the technical side, the partners have already been considering the overall approach to the creation of a multinational network of providers for both age verification and parental consent, and how best to allow these to work together seamlessly across borders. There are many challenges with this project, not least how to preserve the privacy of children when they are navigating the Internet while still providing assurance to the sites that they visit that they are old enough for the content and services that they access. The team is looking closely at how the eIDAS European digital identity system works as it is expected that the euCONSENT solution will mirror many of the features found in this established and successful infrastructure. It is, however, important that the initial research is completed before the technological designs are developed in much detail, as all options need to remain open as we prioritise children’s rights.
Another important element of the project is the creation of common standards on which to base interoperability and allow for a network of providers to trust one another to deliver sufficiently high quality results when asked to confirm age or consent. The first major step in this part of our work is the agreement of common language and definitions, so this has been the focus. Once documented and agreed internally, this will be the first major area of external consultation.
The project team is also considering how best to engage with a very wide range of interested stakeholders and has already seen a great deal of interest in its website. The team has reached out to every audio visual and data protection regulator in the European Union and is hoping to arrange introductory meetings to discuss how the euCONSENT solution can address the practical challenges of enforcing national and European legislation which relies on knowledge of the age of users. We hope many will consider building the plan for the delivery of euCONSENT into their own enforcement timetables, accepting that websites and other information society services need to have the technical means to implement the emerging requirements in this space. To some extent, the regulations are currently ahead of the technology – euCONSENT aims to align the two.