On 12 January 2022, the French National Assembly’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education (the “Committee”) unanimously approved a draft bill seeking to “encourage the use of parental controls on certain equipment and services sold in France and allowing access to the Internet” (the “Bill”).
In 2021, the French Supervisory Authority (“CNIL”) conducted a survey of children’s digital habits. The survey showed that only a minority of parents used parental control tools to monitor their child’s online activity. Further citing the fact that the vast majority of children aged ten and above now declare to “regularly” go online on their own, the CNIL expressed concern that many children find themselves exposed to services or content likely to harm their moral or physical integrity.
To address this issue, the French Government introduced the proposed Bill under an accelerated procedure in November 2021.
- Key requirements of the Bill
The Bill, as amended by the Committee, contains three articles, whose key provisions are summarized below.
Article 1 would require device manufacturers whose products allow access to the Internet (e.g. smartphones, computers, tablets, and gaming consoles) to build in parental control tools and certify that their devices includes such tools. This requirement would only apply to devices which could be used to access content that could be harmful to minors. Users of these devices would have to be asked whether or not they want to activate this tool when they first use and set up their device. The Bill requires manufacturers provide these parental control tools free of charge.
Importers, distributors and order fulfillment service providers would be required to verify that devices are appropriately certified by the manufacturer. Further, persons marketing second-hand devices would be required to check that these devices incorporate the required parental control tools.
The precise technical requirements, as well as the conditions upon which competent authorities can restrict or ban the sale of allegedly non-compliant devices, will be defined by decree.
Article 2 of the Bill empowers the French National Frequency Agency (“ANFR”) to enforce the new rules.
Finally, Article 3 of the Bill seeks to harmonize the parental control tools offered by Internet service providers, stating that such tools must comply with minimum requirements and mandatory technical specifications, to be determined by decree.
- Next steps
The Bill, as amended by the Committee, will be discussed and voted on in the National Assembly’s plenary session next week (starting on January 18, 2022) and then move to the Senate. Due to the accelerated procedure, there will only be one review of the Bill per chamber (i.e., one in the Assembly and one in the Senate).