New CoE recommendations for human rights in Internet services
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Deutsch: Neue Empfehlungen des Europarats zur Wahrung der Menschenrechte im Int...
On 4 April 2012, the Council of Europe adopted two recommendations made by the Committee of Ministers related to the protection of human rights, particularly the freedom of expression, freedom of association, access to information and the right to private life in relation to search engines and online social networks.
In its recommendations, CoE calls on Member States to engage with search engines in order to provide more transparency regarding the way access to information is provided, especially the criteria used to select, rank or remove search results.
CoE also asks for the respect for users’ rights in relation to personal data processing (particularly regarding cookies, IP addresses and individual search histories). It urges states to encourage “search engine providers to clearly differentiate between search results and any form of commercial communication, advertisement or sponsored output, including ‘own content’ offers.”
The actions recommended include the minimization of the collection of personal data by search engine providers. “No user’s IP address should be stored when it is not necessary for the pursuit of a legitimate purpose and when the same results can be achieved by sampling or surveying, or by anonymising personal data. Innovative approaches promoting anonymous searches should also be encouraged.” It also asks for a proportionate data retention period with “legitimate and specified purposes of the processing. Search engine providers should be in a position to justify with demonstrable reasons the collection and the retention of personal data. Information in this connection should be made publicly available and easily accessible.”
Moreover, CoE recommends the development by search engine providers of tools allowing users “to gain access to, and to correct and delete, data related to themselves that have been collected in the course of the use of services, including any profile created, for example for direct marketing purposes”.
Regarding social networking services, CoE calls on states to work with operators to raise users´ awareness of their rights and the possible risks, by providing clear and understandable language and by helping users understand the default settings of their profiles and choose accordingly how much to reveal online about their identity.
The CoE invites states to refrain from “the general blocking and filtering of offensive or harmful content in a way that would hamper its access by users.” The recommendation ask for the implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)6 on measures to promote the respect for freedom of expression and information with regard to Internet filters “with a view to ensuring that any decision to block or delete content is taken in accordance with such principles.”
Press Release - Council of Europe adopts recommendations to protect
human rights on search engines and social platforms (5.04.2012)
Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)3 of the Committee of Ministers to member
States on the protection of human rights with regard to search engines
Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member
States on the protection of human rights with regard to social
networking services (4.04.2012)