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Safe Internet guidelines ignore Aussie feedback

New international guidelines aimed at improving the safety of youngsters using social networking sites will be released today — but privacy advocates are concerned that no young Australians were consulted.
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Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

New international guidelines aimed at improving the safety of youngsters using social networking sites will be released today — but privacy advocates are concerned that no young Australians were consulted.

The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has been closely involved in the development of the international guidelines, which are to be released in the UK parliament today, said ACMA chairman Chris Chapman in a statement.

"The guidelines aim to ensure the online social networking experience remains a positive one by providing good practice recommendations to online social networking providers to assist them in providing proper protections for their users," he said.

The guidelines recommend making social networking profiles for users under 18 private by default, and increasing reporting mechanisms for bullying on social networking sites.

Social networking providers Bebo, Yahoo, Orange, AOL, MSN, Google and Fox Interactive Media were consulted by a task force headed up by the UK Home Office. ACMA was the only Australian organisation to be consulted for the guidelines.

Roger Clarke, chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, has raised concerns that young Australians were not consulted during the development of the guidelines.

"I'm not young or a Facebook user myself, but the Taskforce also needs to get feedback from the prime community that [the guidelines] affect ... If they've done that, then great stuff, but if they have not, then there is a bit of gap in the process," he told ZDNet.com.au.

A spokesperson for ACMA admitted that Australian children were not consulted: "The project group developing the Social Networking Guidance drew heavily on UK and US research into Internet use by children and child psychology, which included interviews with children."

The use of guidelines, as opposed to filtering technology similar to the NetAlert program, was welcomed by IBRS security analyst James Turner.

"Anything which educates people on how to use technology is going to be better than sending out another piece of technology to fix [a preceding technology]. This is why NetAlert was such a crash and burn issue," said Turner.

The guidelines, called Good Practice Guidance for Providers of Social Networking and Other User Interactive Services will be available later today.

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