E.U. pushes for stronger Internet privacy laws
The European Union Thursday announced recommendations to update privacy laws that could make it easier for consumers to delete information about them on the Internet and beef up enforcement for Web sites that violate laws.
In its paper, the E.U.'s data protection authorities said its recommendations are aimed to creating new privacy laws in 2011. After a review of its more than 15-year-old privacy laws, regulators said new laws have to take into account questions about how data is protected on social networks such as Facebook and cloud computing applications such as Google's e-mail and documents.
"The protection of personal data is a fundamental right," said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "To guarantee this right, we need clear and consistent data protection rules. We also need to bring our laws up to date with the challenges raised by new technologies and globalization."
Europe has been more aggressive at privacy protection, experts say, compared to the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission is expected within the month to release recommendations on privacy guidelines for the Internet that would be used as a guide for legislation or self-regulation by the advertising and publishing industries. But privacy advocates say the U.S. has been too favorable to businesses who argue they need to collect data to serve up tailored advertising on the Web.
"Part of it is cultural, and part of it is that the U.S. and Europe have radically different privacy regimes," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "The European model is extensive data protection in private information, and the U.S. model is piecemeal."
Specifically, the paper recommends laws that make it easier for users to access and delete their personal data by giving Web sites deadlines to respond to such requests. Web sites would also make it more clear to users how personal information is being used and how to wipe out their information.
The E.U. also recommends redefining "sensitive data" that has stronger protections to include more categories such as genetic information.
And the European body wants to beef up enforcement.
"In order to ensure the enforcement of data protection rules, it is essential to have effective provisions on remedies and sanctions," the paper states. "Many cases where an individual is affected by an infringement of data protection rules also affect a considerable number of other individuals in a similar situation."
Such enforcement provisions to a new law could include the inclusion of criminal sanctions in cases of serious privacy breaches.
The data protection rules would also apply to how law enforcement use Internet data.
"Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU now has the possibility to lay down comprehensive and coherent rules on data protection for all sectors, including police and criminal justice," the paper said. "Naturally, the specificities and needs of these sectors will be taken into account. Under the review, data retained for law enforcement purposes should also be covered by the new legislative framework."
To read more about Internet privacy in Europe click here.
| November 4, 2010; 9:16 AM ET
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