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EU looking to strengthen privacy rules amid new concerns

By Ed Oswald, Betanews

The European Union will begin work shortly to revise and strengthen its more than 15-year-old privacy laws already on the books, reacting to the increasing popularity of social networking. Privacy advocates worldwide have targeted the industry as of late, arguing many are lax with their user’s personal details.

“We need to bring our laws up to date with the challenges raised by new technologies and globalization,” Commissioner Viviane Reding said in statement. “The protection of personal data is a fundamental right.” The European Commission plans to introduce legislation to the Parliament sometime next year, she added.

The original set of online privacy laws were passed in 1995 and made data protection a personal right. Last year the Commission began work on revising the rules to meet modern needs, and was made a priority by Reding and EU Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Among the goals of the proposal will be to streamline privacy controls across all 27 member states of the EU, and to give more power to local privacy authorities in prosecuting privacy cases. The Commission believes that consumers should have more control over their personal information on sites like Facebook.

For example, when a user deletes his or her profile, the social networking service would be mandated to completely erase all data. This has become a point of contention for some, after it was revealed that the site may retain some data on former users even if their profiles had been deleted.

It also calls for more “clear and transparent” methods of disclosure on service provider’s uses of personal information, and notification when their data may have been used in an unlawful manner.

The commission will continue to accept further comment from both the industry and public through January 15, it said.

Both Google and Facebook have been frequent targets of ire from EU officials ??” Facebook most recently for changes in its privacy policy to allow for “instant personalization“, and Google over its Street View feature which is being investigated for privacy breaches by several member nations.

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2010

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