Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on protecting the dignity, security and privacy of children on the Internet


(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 20 February 2008 at the 1018th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)


The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,

Recalling the fundamental right to freedom of expression and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights - ETS No. 5);

Recalling the 1989 United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, in particular the inherent right for children to dignity, to special protection and care as is necessary for their well-being, to protection against all forms of discrimination or arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy and to unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation;

Convinced that the well-being and best interests of children are fundamental values shared by all member states, which must be promoted without any discrimination;

Convinced that the Internet is an important tool for children’s everyday activities, such as communication, information, knowledge, education and entertainment;

Concerned however by the enduring presence of content created by children which can be damaging to their dignity, security, privacy and honour both now and in the future as adults;

Recalling the Committee of Ministers’ Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet, adopted on 28 May 2003, which stresses that the exercise of such freedom should not prejudice the dignity or fundamental rights and freedoms of others, especially children;

Conscious that the traceability of children’s activities via the Internet may expose them to criminal activities, such as the solicitation of children for sexual purposes, or otherwise illegal or harmful activities, such as discrimination, bullying, stalking and other forms of harassment, by others;

Recalling the measures to protect children referred to in the 2001 Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185), in particular concerning child pornography, and the 2007 Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201), in particular concerning the solicitation of children for sexual purposes;

Convinced of the need to inform children about the enduring presence and risks of the content they create on the Internet and, in this connection, of the need to develop and promote their information literacy, defined as the competent use of tools providing access to information, the development of critical analysis of content and the appropriation of communication skills to foster citizenship and creativity, as referred to in Recommendation Rec(2006)12 of the Committee of Ministers on empowering children in the new information and communications environment;

Aware that communication using new technologies and new information and communication services must respect the right to privacy and to secrecy of correspondence, as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and as elaborated by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108);

Concerned by the profiling of information and the retention of personal data regarding children’s activities for commercial purposes;

Noting the outcome documents of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, 2003 - Tunis, 2005), in particular the 2005 Tunis Agenda for the Information Society which reaffirmed the commitment to effective policies and frameworks to protect children and young people from abuse and exploitation through information and communication technologies;

Noting also the mandate of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, in particular to identify emerging issues regarding the development and security of the Internet and to help find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of concern to everyday users;

Aware of the emerging tendency for certain types of institutions, such as educational establishments, and prospective employers to seek information about children and young people when deciding on important issues concerning their lives,

Declares that, other than in the context of law enforcement, there should be no lasting or permanently accessible record of the content created by children on the Internet which challenges their dignity, security and privacy or otherwise renders them vulnerable now or at a later stage in their lives;

Invites member states together, where appropriate, with other relevant stakeholders, to explore the feasibility of removing or deleting such content, including its traces (logs, records and processing), within a reasonably short period of time.