Facebook user on a phone

Parental consent necessary for minors to join Facebook, French bill states

Image credit: Dreamstime

Draft data privacy legislation presented by the Justice Minister has suggested that children in France may not open a social media account without parental consent.

The bill – which was drafted by the Ministries for Justice and for Digital Affairs – will create a framework for the management of personal data that is aligned with the European General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May 2018.

It is primarily intended to update data privacy rights and improve user’s right to access to data collected and stored by internet companies; which is, at times, sold on to third parties. The bill could allow users to have details of their browsing activity removed, or records rectified.

Perhaps most notably, the bill requires that French children under the age of 16 must seek parental approval before opening an account on Facebook or other social networks. The bill will require young, prospective users to tick a box confirming that they are signing up with parental approval. Although this would – according to the Nicole Belloubet, the French Minister for Justice – be the equivalent of a legal declaration, this requirement may prove a challenge to enforce. Facebook requires prospective users to tick a box confirming that they are at least 13, surveys suggest that there are millions of underage Facebook users.

Emerging reports of disturbing, superficially child-friendly videos posted on YouTube have reignited concerns over the accessibility of inappropriate content on platforms – such as Facebook and YouTube – that host user-generated content.

“Joining Facebook will involve parental authorisation for minors aged under 16,” Belloubet told reporters as she presented a summary of the legislation.

The bill has already been approved by the Cabinet, and is due to pass through Parliament before it can be enshrined in law.

Earlier this week, Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French Minister for Education, announced that use of mobile phones would be banned in schools starting from September 2018. Although students are already banned from using their phones during lessons, the ban will cover breaks, lunches and other periods spent outside the classroom. The idea of a ban was floated by President Emmanuel Macron during his 2017 election campaign.

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