Poll: Young people in 13 EU countries refuse surveillance of online communication – Press Release

According to the results of the survey, 80% of young people aged 13 to 17 years old from 13 EU Member States would not feel comfortable being politically active or exploring their sexuality if authorities were able to monitor their digital communication, in order to look for child sexual abuse.

By EDRi · March 7, 2023

New evidence shows that 80% of young people aged 13 to 17 years old from 13 EU Member States would not feel comfortable being politically active or exploring their sexuality if authorities were able to monitor their digital communication, in order to look for child sexual abuse. These survey results come at an important moment as the European Parliament is negotiating the European Commission’s proposal ‘laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse’ (CSA Regulation).

About the survey

The representative survey was commissioned by European Digital Rights (EDRi) and the Pirate Party Members of the European Parliament.

  • The consultation included more than 8000 young people in France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Greece.
  • 66% of respondents don’t approve of internet providers monitoring their digital communication for suspicious content
  • 67% rely on encrypted communication apps like WhatsApp or Signal
  • 56% consider their anonymity crucial for their activism and for organising politically among peers
  • 1 in 3 respondents use communication apps, dating apps, or other apps to send intimate photos
  • 43% of respondents called for alternative measures to internet harms as “Improving media literacy and training of young people under 18 on the risks and appropriate responses.” while 37% asked for “Improving the mechanisms for young people to report cases of grooming and ensuring that they are adequately and effectively followed-up.“
  • Only 2% of minors think that scanning all private communications for harmful material is the most effective and appropriate to protect them from harm on the internet
  • The link to survey results is available only for press access. In order to report to results, please use the raw data link below
  • Raw data of the survey results – publicly available

Graph showing the percentage of yes/no answers to the question "would you feel comfortable to being politically active or exploring yuor sexuality if authorities were able to monitor your digital communication, in order to look for child sexual abuse?"

Undermining encryption will turn the internet into a dangerous place

In 2022, the European Commission proposed its “Regulation laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse” material online, including measures which put the vital integrity of secure communications at risk. The proposed law promises to protect children from sexual abuse by breaking encrypted, secure communications.

However, experts show that undermining encryption will turn the internet into a space that is dangerous for everyone’s privacy, security and free expression. This includes the very children that this legislation aims to protect.

The United Nations and UNICEF state online privacy is vital for young people’s development and self-expression, and children should not be subjected to generalised surveillance.

The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists highlights that snooping is harmful for children, and that policies based in empowerment and education are more effective.

“Young people value their privacy. The poll results show that the measures proposed under the CSA Regulation disempower youth, stop them from organising for social change and from exploring their sexuality at a crucial point in their life. This is a worrying message sent to young people, after the European Year of the Youth in 2022 and ahead of the European Parliament elections in 2024.”

- Andreea Belu, Head of Communications and Campaigns, EDRi

Andreea Belu

Will the EU listen to young people?

We are at a critical time in the legislative process with MEP Alex Saliba already using his IMCO opinion to remove some of the most harmful bits of the proposal. This poll shows that young people in the EU would support Mr Saliba in going even further to remove all mass surveillance measures in the CSA Regulation and make sure that the internet stays private and secure for them.

“With negotiations currently in full swing, it is vital that all Members of the European Parliament listen to the results of this survey. Young people benefit greatly from privacy and security online, and are counting on MEPs to reject a proposal that would put their digital lives under attack.”

- Ella Jakubowska, Senior Policy Adivsor, EDRi

The child’s best interest is a key principle of law, and that includes listening to young people about the sort of world that they want. The European Parliament has the opportunity to amplify the voice of young people and ensure their right to self-determination.

Empowering and safe spaces can only be possible with privacy

As the survey has shown, a big part of being young is exploring our identities and owning our own power by finding out what we like, what we believe in and who we want to be. In a digitalised society, online spaces are an essential part of this stage in life as we connect with others, including through social media, instant messaging apps and video games. Empowering and safe spaces can only be possible with privacy, and without private companies, governments and others snooping on our electronic devices such as our phones or laptops.

The proposed CSA Regulation draws a picture of the internet as only a dangerous place for young people. But what young people feel is that the scanning of their private communications, pictures and searches online, turns normal activities into risky business.

It can have serious consequences, in particular for queer, racialised or other marginalised youth. The EU should pursue an alternative to the CSA Regulation that protects children whilst upholding confidentiality and security online.

About the Stop Scanning Me movement

In June 2022, over 70 civil society organisations demanded the withdrawal of the CSAR proposal. Now, this demand is supported by 125 organisations and thousands of individuals who signed the petition against the measures proposed under the CSA regulation. The efforts are part of the pan-European “Stop Scanning Me” campaign.