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Advancing youth on-line security and wellness

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As we head into 2024, there’s an pressing name to motion for us all to take steps to guard youth security and privateness on-line and to make sure that know-how  – together with rising applied sciences comparable to AI – serves as a optimistic drive for the following technology. As policymakers and regulators weigh potential measures to assist advance security outcomes within the coming weeks and months, it’s important that they think about each the advantages and the dangers of know-how for younger individuals. Primarily based on our experiences, we define three themes for policymakers to contemplate as they work via initiatives to guard youth security and privateness on-line, in addition to Microsoft’s place on these points.

Microsoft’s strategy to on-line security

At Microsoft, our objective is to empower younger individuals to make use of know-how safely, mindfully, and in pursuit of social, instructional, and financial alternatives. In line with our mission and our commitments, this implies:

  • Unlocking the advantages and energy of know-how for all
  • Sustaining our longstanding efforts to advance baby on-line security and privateness
  • Advancing our understanding of how know-how and baby well-being intersect

We’ve lengthy acknowledged that we now have a duty to assist protected on-line experiences for our customers, together with youth, and to contribute to a safer on-line ecosystem. This requires us to stability youth rights thoughtfully and holistically, together with freedom of expression, entry to info, privateness, and safety. There isn’t any one-size-fits-all strategy; interventions to guard youth from dangerous on-line content material or conduct or their knowledge needs to be tailor-made to the service or characteristic, and to the hurt we’re in search of to handle.

Key themes for policymakers to give attention to in 2024 and past 

  1. Expertise is essential to allow younger individuals to unlock social, instructional, and financial alternatives.

Coverage and regulatory measures ought to protect the advantages of know-how for younger individuals and allow them to take part totally of their communities. Expertise has been proven to:

  • Create social alternatives: It allows younger individuals to attach with others, entry numerous sources and views, and discover assist and data on-line
  • Present instructional advantages: It will possibly improve entry to studying alternatives, assist numerous learners thrive, and assist younger individuals develop abilities for the digital future
  • Create financial alternatives: Mastering computing and AI abilities will develop into more and more important for a lot of careers throughout the whole economic system. Expertise can even empower younger individuals to create and innovate, with instruments comparable to generative AI

Nonetheless, we additionally acknowledge that know-how can have detrimental impacts on younger individuals’s well-being, and that these impacts usually are not evenly distributed: Some younger individuals could also be extra susceptible or marginalized than others. These dangers might also change as know-how evolves.

  1. Empowering younger individuals to make use of know-how safely and mindfully requires age-appropriate experiences however age assurance strategies have trade-offs.

We want to have the ability to establish the ages of our customers to guard in opposition to potential hurt. Understanding a consumer is underneath a sure age can allow the appliance of various content material insurance policies, privateness settings, household security options, or the availability of age-appropriate content material.

Nonetheless, there are challenges and tradeoffs in implementing sturdy age assurance processes. There may be at the moment no clear technical resolution to age assurance that achieves the accuracy wanted to successfully establish or confirm a consumer’s age with out risking trade-offs comparable to potential safety, privateness, and human rights dangers. Along with contemplating how we are able to construct an interoperable and frictionless consumer expertise, conversations are underway throughout business on methods to mitigate the next:

  • Privateness and safety dangers, comparable to amassing and processing delicate private knowledge
  • Fairness and entry challenges, comparable to excluding or discriminating in opposition to sure teams of customers
  • Civil rights and authorities surveillance considerations, comparable to undermining on-line anonymity and freedom of expression
  • Person expertise points, comparable to creating obstacles or delays to entry on-line providers

Microsoft is exploring completely different age assurance strategies, enabling us to study and enhance our practices and options. We’re partaking with technical and different organizations such because the Worldwide Group for Standardization (ISO) to assist develop frameworks to assist interoperable and privacy-protective age assurance applied sciences.

However we additionally want the assist and steerage of policymakers, regulators, and different consultants to assist navigate these trade-offs and discover sensible options which can be each efficient and respect elementary rights. We additionally wish to work with consultants to deepen our understanding of how age info ought to inform completely different interventions throughout completely different providers and options, in addition to the place we are able to appropriately supply options with out age verification measures.

  1. We should proceed to develop the required proof base to design know-how and insurance policies to advance youth well-being.

We have to continuously replace and enhance our understanding of how know-how impacts younger individuals’s well-being, and the way we are able to design know-how and insurance policies to finest assist and defend them. Extra analysis is rising about using social media, however we see a necessity for added, medically knowledgeable analysis to grasp the affect of various on-line providers on youth psychological well being, growth, and studying.

We encourage stakeholders and consultants to put money into additional analysis on numerous matters, comparable to constructing understanding of how youth interact with completely different sorts of know-how, the affect of limiting entry to know-how, whether or not some options or content material is perhaps extra appropriately restricted than others, and the potential to leverage know-how to ship psychological well being interventions. To assist this, on Safer Web Day we are going to publish the newest outcomes from our annual client analysis.

And, all through, there’s a must heart youth voices and views – we can not meet our objectives with out understanding what younger individuals need and wish from know-how.

Our assist for regulatory measures

Regulatory measures such because the EU Digital Companies Act are driving systemic adjustments in how business approaches digital security. We assist the event of tailor-made, considerate measures that may assist younger individuals to have interaction safely on-line and commend the nice practices beginning to emerge globally. Microsoft helps:

  • Threat-based approaches, tailor-made to particular on-line providers and options: We assist regulatory approaches that clearly differentiate between distinctive on-line providers and leverage danger or affect assessments to ship efficient mitigations for dangers to youngsters and younger individuals within the design or operation of these providers.
  • Clearly outlined harms and duties: The place proposals incorporate an obligation of care to handle potential harms to youngsters, we encourage policymakers to offer readability on what’s required to discharge these duties and to obviously outline the harms at situation, primarily based on scientific analysis.
  • Final result-based approaches: To allow a service-specific strategy that helps the rights and finest pursuits of the kid, we welcome regulatory approaches that concentrate on making certain the programs and processes are in place to mitigate danger and construct in improved privateness protections for kids and youths.
  • Regulatory harmonization and interoperability: To assist seamless on-line experiences, we encourage ongoing regulatory cooperation and harmonization, together with between privateness and security regulators, and worldwide regulators.
  • Offering parental guardrails: The place acceptable to the service, we assist necessities to offer mother and father and caregivers with sturdy instruments that allow them to decide on guardrails to handle their baby’s on-line experiences.

We welcome the chance to additional interact with consultants, policymakers, and regulators to assist the event of a safer on-line ecosystem for younger individuals.

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