An equal commitment: All EU citizens have the right to understand data protection

BRUSSELS – 27 January 2015

It is no longer news that technology is developing at an incredible rate, and that new technological products are adopted faster than ever before. While it took 25 years for telephones to penetrate 10 percent of the United States market, tablets reached the same adoption rate within less than five years.

Although technological innovation has a tremendously positive effect on the lives of many, the risks associated with the ubiquity of technological tools are often underestimated, particularly by the most vulnerable groups in society. An online consultation developing by Inclusion Europe and its partners in the SafeSurfing Project revealed that most people with intellectual disabilities are unaware of the dangers they face when sharing their personal information online. Their parents and carers have also reported that many persons with intellectual disabilities had difficulties understanding the terms and conditions of using certain software and applications, not fully comprehending services they were subscribing to, and also receiving online abuse because of their disability.

Therefore, on the European Data Protection Day, SafeSurfing partners are calling on European Union policy-makers to take into account the needs of people with intellectual disabilities when deciding on the wording of the draft General Data Protection Regulation. Inclusion Europe and its partners welcome the emphasis on informed consent, transparency and privacy by design, and particularly on the need of users to consciously agree or disagree with data processing. Moreover, SafeSurfing partners fully agree with with users receiving free and easy to understand information on how their data is being processed. However, what is easy to comprehend for one person could prove to be quite difficult for another. Therefore, people with intellectual disabilities would need to be provided such information in an accessible, easy-to-read format, following the European Standards for Making Information Easy to Read and Understand. Presenting information in such a manner would not only benefit people with intellectual disabilities, but also children or older people.

Amy Clarke, who has an intellectual disability disability and is working on the SafeSurfing project, said: “I feel that accessibility is very important. All sorts of people need to understand how to use the internet safely so easy-to-read guides are vital. I think it’s important to stay safe online and not to reveal too much information about yourself. Otherwise people can hack into your accounts and you can be attacked by cyber bullies.”

While data minimization and the possibility to use services anonymously can definitely prove to be effective ways of protecting some personal data of European citizens, these have to be complemented by a thorough knowledge of what happens to information when being posted online. By training more than 1000 people with intellectual disabilities on safe online usage, partners in the SafeSurfing Project are doing their part. It is now time for EU policy-makers to show an equal commitment.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at


The SafeSurfing Project is carried out with support from the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union