Ireland a world leader in online legislation (SBP – 19th November 2006)

My article on Bebo from today’s Sunday Business Post (link here):

Ireland is one of the best countries in Europe for legislation on online security, according to the chief safety officer of social-networking website Bebo.

Dr Rachel O’Connell – who is based in Dublin and has a PhD from UCC in online crime – said the government has been pro-active in tackling the new issues the internet has created.

There are up to 800,000 Irish users registered with Bebo, which allows people to post photos, videos and diaries as well as keep in contact with friends and family online.

There are about 25 million site members in total, with around four million members using the site on a daily basis.
‘‘Ireland has been a trailblazer in terms of changing the legislation. Sometimes there can be the perception that we’re following behind everyone else but in fact if you look at policy and regulation, this country has been leading the way in terms of changes,” she said.

‘‘The country has been very pro-active in what it does, which is very important at a national and European level.”

O’Connell said this approach by government is shown through groups such as the Internet Advisory Board (IAB), which was set up years before its British equivalent was established.

O’Connell was joined by the founders of Bebo, British businessman Michael Birch and his American wife Xochi, last week as she gave a presentation to the IAB on the work being done by social networking sites to deal with online security issues.

In recent months Bebo has been involved in the Social Networking Stakeholders Group, which brings companies, teachers, politicians and parents together to discuss concerns and initiatives.

‘‘It’s really exciting because even though there’s a lot of competition between each company, they all know that security is something the whole industry needs to get right, so they’re all eager to exchange ideas and see what works,” said O’Connell.

‘‘Security is never something you’re finished with,” said Michael Birch. ‘‘It’s not like you can say, ‘well, that’s Bebo secure and safe’ and move on.”

Birch said security has always been an important aspect of the site, with changes to the service being made on a regular basis. Xochi Birch said that as much as one fifth of the country’s population were members of social networking phenomenon Bebo, according to the company’s owners.

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