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Committee of Ministers calls on member states to intensify their efforts to protect children’s privacy in the digital environment, particularly in COVID-19 context

Strasbourg 29 April 2021
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Member states should enhance safeguarding measures in processing personal data of children, notably health-related data and data collected in education settings, to minimise potential adverse effects, including the public identification of a child as a COVID-19 carrier, said the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in a Declaration adopted on 28 April 2021 focusing on protecting children’s privacy in digital environment.

The Committee of Ministers reminded that while information and communication technologies (ICTs), in general, are an important tool in children’s lives with many benefits and opportunities, their use can at the same time generate risks. This is particularly true in the current context of COVID-19 pandemic which put children at a greater risk with due to the increased use of ICTs and also seriously impacted the full enjoyment of their human rights. Notably, the traceability of children’s activities in the digital environment may expose them to criminal activities, such as the solicitation of children for sexual purposes, sexual extortion, child sexual exploitation (including exploitation of sexually explicit content generated by children), or otherwise illegal or harmful activities, such as discrimination, bullying, stalking and other forms of harassment.

Personal data can be used to the benefit, but also to the detriment of the child, and at present the understanding of the impact of processing biometric data, digital tracking and surveillance, automated decision-making and profiling is still limited. The increasing reliance on systems based on artificial intelligence (AI) can bring both challenges and opportunities for children’s full enjoyment of human rights, the Committee of Ministers noted, underlining the fundamental importance of achieving a high level of digital literacy among children, as well as among parents, in addressing these challenges.

The Committee of Ministers called on the member States of the Council of Europe, inter alia, to ratify and implement Convention 108+ (the modernised Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Processing of Personal Data), to step up efforts to promote the rights of the child in the digital environment as one of the key priorities of the Council Europe’s Strategy for the Rights of the Child, including children’s data protection in an education setting, as well as to develop and promote critical digital literacy, youth empowerment initiatives and parenting skills. Besides, states should co-operate to jointly address the risks posed by the development of AI systems and take any further measures to ensure that the sharing of, access to and use of children’s data are undertaken in accordance with the child’s best interests.

More information:

 Children’s rights in the digital environment

 Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)7 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on Guidelines to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the child in the digital environment

 Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)10 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on developing and promoting digital citizenship education

 The protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICTs) – ongoing monitoring by the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee