Internet companies such as Facebook and Google face tighter controls over how they use personal information under new EU laws. The laws however, would leave USENET and newsgroups alone.
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.
There have been rising worries about web privacy issues as the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo collect more information about their users’ online habits, which they can use to attract advertisers.
“Benefits of technology to individuals, businesses and public authorities must go hand-in-hand with the necessary respect for personal data,” the European Commission said.
But Commission officials said it was unclear how the EU could force American companies to comply with its demands. All that Commission data protection expert Thomas Zerdick would say was: “It’s worthwhile giving this a try.”
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.
Britain’s Information Commissioner ruled yesterday that Google broke data protection laws by harvesting emails, internet addresses, and passwords while collecting information for its Streetview maps service.
Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and Canada are investigating the company on the same issue. American regulators ended their inquiry last week after Google addressed their concerns.