France makes parental controls mandatory on internet-connected devices

France makes parental controls mandatory on internet-connected devices

Legislation is the latest in France to protect minors and make it easier for parents to block online access

Parental control over Internet access has been strengthened in France with law no. 2022-300 of March 2, 2022, in force since September 5 (by publication of decree no. 2022-1212 of September 2, 2022). However, the legislation is not yet fully effective, with a draft implementing decree in public consultation until October 6, 2022.

Legal framework

From now on, only certain terminals will have to integrate parental control systems: these are “terminal equipment intended for the use of online public communication services giving access to services and content likely to harm the physical, mental or moral development of minorsincluding refurbished terminals.

These are computers, smartphones, tablets and, more generally, connected objects equipped with operating systems (for example, smart televisions, video game consoles or watches). On the other hand, the servers and boxes of ISPs, which do not in themselves allow access to the Internet, should not be affected by the obligation of parental control.

Once installed, their use must also be made easier for the parents of minor users. To this end, the law requires that the parental control system be:

  • Easily accessible and understandable allowing users to restrict or control the access of minors to harmful services and content. The parental control system should not be activated by default, so it is up to the parents to activate it.
  • Capable of being activated at no additional cost when the terminal equipment is first put into service. Their use and, if necessary, their uninstallation must also be offered at no additional cost.
  • Protection of personal data of minors that could be collected when activated. This data should not be used for commercial purposes, such as direct marketing, profiling and behavioral targeted advertising, even after the age of majority.

Who is responsible?

Mainly, equipment manufacturers. When placing their terminal equipment on the EU market, they must ensure that their operating system includes the required parental control system and certify to importers, distributors and fulfillment service providers (such as as storage, packaging, labeling or shipping service providers) that the terminal equipment integrates the control device.

Manufacturers can also ask the operating system provider directly to certify the presence of a parental control system. Active certification or control requirements also apply to importers, distributors, order processing service providers and also sellers of used equipment.

New implementation rules

What to expect from the application decree in consultation? The rules of law will be specified in implementing acts. A first decree will specify the procedures for issuing the certificate, as well as the minimum functionalities and characteristics that the parental control systems must meet. In particular, the latter will include:

  • The possibility of measuring the time of use of the equipment and limiting it.
  • The ability to block purchases made through the terminal, the downloading of content previously legally rated or rated by the service or content provider, and access to pre-installed content previously legally rated or rated by the service or content provider .

The implementing decree specifies what information must be provided to end users regarding control systems and how. This information should ultimately include:

  • The essential characteristics and technical characteristics of the control system, as well as an explanatory note on its configuration and operation.
  • Information on the prevention of risks related to the exposure of minors to online public communication services, particularly in terms of addictive practices, online harassment or exposure to inappropriate content.
  • Informative content on the prevention of risks related to early exposure to screens.

The decree of application will also specify the methods of control of the application of this new legal device by the National Agency of the frequencies, which will be able to impose administrative sanctions in the event of non-respect of the corrective prescriptions of bringing into conformity of the device. Furthermore, for the placing on the market, as well as the advertising of non-compliant terminals, the criminal penalties envisaged will be up to €1,500 for a natural person and up to €7,500 for legal persons. In addition, non-compliant terminals may be withdrawn from the market or recalled.

Commentary by Osborne Clarke

This is a new step in protecting children from inappropriate content – ​​violent or pornographic – online. The initiative is part of a more general legislative movement launched in recent years in France to protect minors online. Blocking access to pornographic content will now be easier for parents to set up.

The draft implementing decree, submitted for public consultation until October 6, 2022, will have to go through several stages of validation by the Board of state or its data protection authority CNIL then notified to the European Commission.

This Insight was written with the help of Osborne Clarke intern Laura Chen.

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