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EU advisors: Tighter web privacy will stamp out bullies

Sensitive info leaking to tormentors and paedos – report

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Improved safeguards and greater resources for law enforcement are needed to tackle the related problems of cyber-bullying and online grooming, according to a report by an EU security agency published on Tuesday.

ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) warned that the mishandling of personal information gathered using data-mining or profiling harms young people. It said private data exposed on the web might be subsequently seized upon and misused by bullies, online predators or crooks. This is obviously detrimental to anyone's well-being and the development of children's social skills.

Many parents lose control of their children's online environment as they lack the knowledge and tools to support their offspring, ENISA notes.

Prof Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of ENISA, commented: "Our children run the risk of becoming victims of online grooming and cyber-bullying; therefore actions are needed to protect teenagers’ cyber activities."

ENISA Expert Group on internet risks has come up with a list of 18 recommendations on how to tackle the twin problems of online bullying and grooming. The key recommendations include the need to strengthen law enforcement agencies in member states. Greater resources and manpower are needed to "properly cover regulatory issues, statistical data collection of misuse cases, and follow up on privacy breaches", the group said. How to pay for increased manpower and resources for police at a time of Europe-wide economic crisis is not tackled by the report, however.

The EU agency would also like to sponsored online campaigns to prevent grooming and cyber-torment on social networks. It would also like to see specialised security settings and user account profiles for teenagers to cover their particular needs, plus better privacy and age-related controls for applications that have access to teenagers.

In addition, ENISA would like to see improved efforts to educate parents about cyber-threats. The full report, including an assessment of risks and recommendations to different target audiences, can be found here. ®

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