Video: E.U. privacy chief Reding to meet with Holder
As the United States looks at ways to better protect Internet users’ privacy, Europe is going through its own update of online privacy rules. The 27-nation European Union is taking a more aggressive approach to privacy by setting higher bars for how data can be collected on Web users.
European laws prohibit Web sites from tracking users without their permission. The E.U. is also weighing legislation that would let users delete all their information from a Web site, such as Facebook, and transfer data from one wireless provider to another without leaving profiles behind.
Viviane Reding, the vice president of the E.U. Justice Commission and head of privacy regulation, visited The Post on Wednesday to talk about her approach to protecting users in the age of Internet over-sharing. On Thursday, she is scheduled to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss ways the E.U. and U.S. can cooperate on safeguarding consumers' personal information, including data on travel and finances. The talks may also touch on the recent disclosure of classified documents by Wikileaks.
The following is an edited version of Post Tech’s conversation with Reding:
What is the biggest difference between European and U.S. views on Internet privacy?
The basic values in Europe are that we have the right to our own private, personal data. It’s mine. And if one agrees to give that data,then it is available. That is known as opt-in consent and we’ve had that as law since 1995.
In the United States, data are available today unless told otherwise.
Yes, and we have to strengthen rules to adapt to the modern technology world. For example, in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission has announced an interesting Do Not Track idea, which is an opt-out proposal.
What do you believe is essential to your own privacy laws?
Transparency. I must be clear who wants to utilize my data and for what purpose. And I must be able to retract authorization at any moment because my data belong to me.
Is that where you got the idea that consumers have the right to be forgotten on the Internet?
Yes. The idea is that my data belongs to me and for my own reasons, it should be eliminated if I want. And this applies to telecommunciations providers and portability of data. I should have the freedom of choice to change service providers and take my data with me.
The concept of data minimization is important. Only minimal data and nothing more should be collected, even by law enforcement. For police, they only should have data that is useful for certain purposes, to secure society.
Why put all these into law instead of voluntary commitments by companies? Many are doing their own to create technologies and implement policies on privacy.
Protection of individuals is not the question of volutnary action. For us, it is written in our charter of fundamental rights that everyone has the right to the protection of their data.
What is your view on behavioral adversing?
This is one of the problems we need to face because very targeted advertising is implemented today against rules in Europe. Again, you need informed prior consent to be the subject for targeting in Europe. At the same time we don’t want to hamper new business models so we want to see how the business industry can strengthen its own rules for their own business models.
What would some of those business models be that you don’t want to suppress?
Social networks and the questions around cloud computing. We have to see how much is possible to give to enhance those new ways of doing things on the Internet.
What do you think of Microsoft's announcement of anti-tracking tools on its coming browser?
This is the right direction and what is important is that industry has understood it can’t ignore privacy concerns. If they want to be efficient, they have to have privacy enhancing tools build in. And companies want legal certainty about privacy.
| December 8, 2010; 6:45 PM ET
Categories: DOJ, FTC, Microsoft, Privacy
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