O2 Digital Confidence Conference - 'smiley or snarly?' - the choices ahead...

Glenn Manoff, Reputation and Communications Director, O2 UK, reviews our Digital Confidence Conference which saw figures from across the child protection and digital landscape come together to plot a path to the digital future.


One thing which struck me about the debate was the healthy lack of consensus amongst those in the room, and indeed, online. This demonstrates what a live, contentious and fast moving area we were discussing, not to mention how vital it is to so many people. Certain themes which recurred throughout the day included the need to strike a balance between over and under filtering of web content, a dual focus on both parental and industry responsibility (neither alone is ‘the answer’), and likewise the challenge of walking the fine line between censorship and protection for everyone involved in this debate.

Here’s the opening remarks from Ronan Dunne, CEO O2 UK…

…and Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner.

The Commissioner was clear – parents need to take responsibility, and saying ‘my kids know more than me’ won’t cut it as the internet matures. He was also clear that he won’t hesitate to use his regulatory powers if industry and stakeholders alike don’t work together on issues like data privacy, to ensure consumers’ interests come first. Or, as he put it, he wanted to be ‘smiley, not snarly’…

Our first panel session tackled the emotive, and important, issue of child safety online. You can see the panel’s presentations below.

Key points included:

  • Facebook’s Luc Delaney attracted praise around both the success of Childline’s Facebook campaign to drive usage of their support services, and from Helen King of CEOP over recent flagging of individual privacy settings. Everyone present made it clear Facebook were the major service in this area, and there was more yet to be done to protect children
  • Sue Minto of Childline made the point that sometimes children need to be able to conceal what they’re doing for their own welfare – as with when they need to anonymously use Childline’s services
  • Cookies saw general agreement as a tool which need a balance to be struck around their usage and the need for greater understanding. If pop ups to ask for permission were increased then permissions risk becoming ‘speed bumps to be sped over’
  • Meanwhile the BBC’s Joe Goodwin and Chris Woolard of Ofcom were both clear on the need to consider both the power of traditional media channels to promote digital literacy, alongside the potential for those channels (e.g. TV) to be delivered in new and disruptive ways, further complicating the landscape from a digital protection perspective.

The second panel tackled the thorny topic of digital privacy. Again, key points included:

  • Youth sexual health charity Brook raised the important issue of who makes the decisions about what is blocked/filtered on the web, and how ordinary people have their say . This is something we as O2 will look to take forward. We currently use the IMCB framework to guide the content we class as ‘adult’, but it may be time to review and add more voices to shape the approach
  • John Carr of the IWF and government adviser, spoke firmly on location-based services, describing them as in his ‘field of vision’. It was agreed this is one of the fastest emerging areas of the digital confidence debate, and one with the least clarity over the next steps required
  • An area everyone was in sync on was that spyware was not the way forward to facilitate parental ‘snooping’
  • Press Complaints Commission member and lawyer Professor Walden stressed that new legislation on digital privacy is not the answer, but enforcement of existing legislation instead
  • In response to an online submitted question, McAfee’s Toralv Dirro and CEOP’s Helen King agreed it would be powerful if there were a way to keep parents up to date simply in a single place

A thought provoking and challenging morning, which was the continuation of a live and ongoing conversation, rather than an end. It gave me real optimisim there was such a frank dialogue between those in the ecosystem, and collective alignment to solve the challenges collectively faced. At O2 we believe digital confidence is essential to our customers, our business, and our society. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below as we continue the conversation.