Online giants in firing line on EU data privacy law

09.01.13 @ 18:55

  1. By Benjamin Fox
  2. Benjamin email

BRUSSELS - MEPs are set to come under industry pressure from the likes of Facebook and Google over legislation restricting their right to use and sell personal data collected online.

  • Online-giants could be banned from selling data on web-browsing (Photo: Franco Bouly)

The report by German Green deputy, Jan-Philip Albrecht, published on Tuesday (9 December) on the EU's data protection regulation, proposes to tighten the rules on an individual's right to delete their data if there is no legitimate reason for a business to retain it.

Albrecht also opposes provisions that would allow businesses to change the purpose of holding personal data after it has been collected, and to prevent firms from using and selling data without the explicit permission of users.

"Users must be informed about what happens with their data, and they must be able to consciously agree to data processing - or reject it," he said.

For her part, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding noted that she is "glad to see that the European Parliament rapporteurs are supporting the Commission's aim to strengthen Europe's data protection rules which currently date back to 1995 – pre-Internet age."

"A strong, clear and uniform legal framework will help unleashing the potential of the Digital Single Market and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation in Europe," she added.

Industry groups were more critical, however.

Search-engines and social media sites generate much of their revenue from advertising clicks and selling information on web-browsing habits.

Facebook's head of EU policy, Erika Mann, herself a former centre-left MEP, welcomed what she described as "the thoughtful approach of the rapporteur on many issues."

But she said that Facebook is "concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European Digital Single Market and the reality of innovation on the Internet."

Meanwhile, the ICT-industry lobby group, Industry Coalition for Data Protection, claimed that Albrecht had "missed an opportunity to reconcile effective privacy safeguards with rules protecting the conduct of business—both fundamental rights under the EU charter."

The draft report is parliament's first response to the commission proposals published last January.

The data protection package comprises a draft regulation and a directive.

The regulation, on which Albrecht will lead in parliament, will be strictly enforced across the 27 EU countries, while the directive, piloted by Greek centre-left MEP Dimitrios Droutsas, focuses on the rules for law enforcement authorities and includes only minimum standards.

National governments want police and judicial authorities to be kept out of the scope of the regime.

MEPs on the civil liberties committee will debate the report on Thursday (10 January) with the committee timetabled to adopt its position on the files in April.