New CoE recommendations for human rights in Internet services

By EDRi · April 11, 2012

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Deutsch: [Neue Empfehlungen des Europarats zur Wahrung der Menschenrechte im Internet |]

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)