The Irish Cellular Industry Association has today announced a code of practice aimed at promoting the safe and responsible use of mobile phones, particularly among minors.
The ICIA, a representative body for the mobile industry, has also launched a guidebook for parents and revealed plans to test technology that would filter inappropriate or illegal content.
Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD, who launched the code of practice, welcomed the initiative. “I cannot emphasise enough the role of parents in the purchase and use of mobile phones,” he said.
The code of practice governs several key areas of concern. It will allow operators to grant parents authorised access to their children’s prepaid mobile phone records and account details, so they can check what numbers have been called and what services have been accessed.
Under the code, mobile operators have also pledged to help customers by making it easier to report malicious person-to-person communications. The mobile providers must also maintain lines for customers to report spam messages, in turn reporting to the relevant authorities such as RegTel and the Data Protection Commissioner.
Ireland’s three mobile operators Vodafone, O2 and Meteor have also agreed to adhere to separate codes of practice governing internet access and premium rate services.
The new code of practice has been in development since earlier this year. It differs from one already introduced by UK mobile operators in one respect: unlike in that market, adult content will not be available on Irish networks and as such, the ICIA said there was no requirement to address the issue in its own code.
The Parents Guide to Mobile Phones, called The Knowledge is a free handbook available from all of the operators’ retail stores, through their customer care services and for reading or downloading from their websites. It contains safety tips for parents and covers the basics of a mobile handset as well as listing some of the technologies and features available in current phones. The document will be changed and updated as mobile technology changes and develops.
Meanwhile Vodafone, O2 and Meteor have agreed to collaborate on testing technologies that could filter and block unsuitable or harmful sites and images over mobile phones. Next week they will issue request for information documents to several technology providers, some of whom have already been speaking with the operators since this issue came into the public domain earlier this year. As reported in siliconrepublic.com, some Irish companies have already proposed solutions that address the issue of mobile filtering, which became front-page news following incidents where minors were found to have circulated inappropriate images over mobile phones.
Following an evaluation of bids, the operators will then choose a likely shortlist of three candidates whose products will be tested over a live mobile phone network during July and August. O2 will host these tests although all three Irish operators will be collaborating on the project, which is understood to be a world first, according to O2 Ireland chief executive Danuta Gray. The results of the test are expected in October although a full public launch may be some time after, as issues around product readiness and suitability have yet to be determined.
By Gordon Smith
Mobile phone code of practice