Thursday 24 May 2018

Digital age of consent to remain at 13

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Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

The age of digital consent will remain at 13 after the Justice Committee voted against raising the age of consent to 16.

Fianna Fáil 's Jim O'Callaghan, Sinn Féin TD Donncha O'Laoghaire and Social Democrats TD Roisín Shortall were among the members of An Oireachtas Data Committee calling for the digital age to be raised, with Deputy Shorthall arguing that the digital age of consent offers "very little protection to young people."

In addition the Deputies said that the digital age of consent needed to be raised in order to protect children from having their data harvested and becoming subject to commercial targeting by digital companies.

"We must recognise that children are growing up exposed to levels of intrusion and information that none of us were exposed to growing up, there is a responsibility on parents but also on legislators," Deputy O’Callaghan said.

Deputy O’Callaghan also said that further obligations should be put on social media companies to ensure that when children consent they understand what they are consenting for.

While Deputy Shorthall said that by lowering the age of consent “we are allowing young people enter agreement with companies who will monetise data.”

However Deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly were among those in favour of the digital age of consent remaining at 13.

"Digital safely should not be about creating a nanny state, we will be supporting the Government’s 13 limit, we think it is the right way forward," Deputy Wallace said.

In response, Minister Charlie Flanagan said that the age of 13 for digital consent had been decided upon after public consultation process that was carried out.

Minister Flanagan said that the Ombudsman for Children and ISPCC had taken part in the public consultation and that they, among others, recommended the consent age of 13 years.

"The content of that committee report was very much taken on board," Minister Flanagan said.

In addition Minister Flanagan said that with a consent age of 13, Ireland was in line with a number of other EU countries that had adopted 13 as the age of digital consent including Denmark and Sweden.

The UK, Spain and Latvia had also adopted 13 as the age of digital consent he told the committee.

The news was welcome by a number of groups including the Children’s Rights Alliance and the ISPCC.

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