In a piece published on the 15th April 2017 in the Quotidiano Nazionale (a daily which features articles from three Italian newspapers, Il Resto del Carlino, Il Giorno and La Nazione), Giusella Finocchiaro offered her thoughts on data protection and minors.
“Can children and adolescents sign up to Facebook or other social network accounts?
If being of age is a legal requirement for concluding a contract, then, why should it not be the case for signing up to a social network account? What is the age required for giving valid consent to the processing of personal data? Under Facebook regulations it is 13 years of age and under Italian law it is 18.
Then, why are so many Italian children and adolescents signed up to social networks? The answer is simple: according to the majority of subscription contracts, it is not Italian law which is applicable but the law governing the social network, which means, in the case of Facebook, the law of the United States of America and of the State of California.
Which law takes precedence? This is the most classical legal problem on the Internet, namely, determining which law is applicable and the jurisdiction. The new European Regulation n. 2016/679 on the Protection of Personal Data, which represents the new European law on data protection and is directly applicable from 25th May 2018, solves the problem with a partial compromise. It provides that European law takes precedence and that 16 is the minimum age to sign up (with an option for each Member State to set a lower age, provided that it is not below 13 years). Where the child is below the age of 16, parental consent is given or authorised.
According to certain recent Italian decisions in similar cases (the posting of pictures of their own children on social networks), the consent of both parents is needed. It is clear that it will not be very difficult to get round this provision. However, as the European Regulation provides for, it is the social network itself which will need to keep a check on things, by using available technology”.