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Finland to adopt age limit for social media users from 2018

Finland will adopt new age restrictions for setting up social media accounts from 2018. Officials hope the move will help rein in the wild west of social media usage among underage children.

Nuoret käyttävät kännyköitä.
Image: Iines Jakovlev / Yle

Finnish authorities will begin to introduce local rules to ensure compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which takes effect from May 25, 2018.

The change will see the introduction of a national age limit for the use of social media services. However officials have not yet decided on the age threshold for setting up a social media account.

"In terms of the data protection regulation the age limit is in principle 16 years, but at the national level, it may be defined between 13 and 16 years," said Anu Talus, the Justice Ministry’s legislative counsellor.

The website of the Data Protection Ombudsman explains that the intention is to shield children from the pressure to share personal information without their full understanding of the possible consequences.

In practice, implementation of the regulation means that in the future underage users will need the consent of their mothers, fathers or other guardians to sign up for social media services.

Above all, the data protection regulation mandates the responsibility of database administrators to ensure that users have reached a certain age. According to the Justice Ministry the age limit for such services is not currently tied to the age limit for criminal liability, which is 15 years in Finland.

"If we use a national margin, or course it would be good to be in line with other relevant age limits," Talus remarked.

Just before the Midsummer holiday, a Justice Ministry working group proposed new personal data protection legislation that would complement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The national law would also take effect from May 2018.

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