EU warns on social media privacy

05 November 2010

BRUSSELS: Google, Facebook and other tech giants could face criminal penalties for privacy infringements following a European Commission challenge to existing laws.

New privacy rights, which would make it easier for subscribers to have their personal data either corrected, deleted or blocked are now being mooted in proposed data protection changes that would be introduced throughout the EU's 27 member states.

Enshrined in the discussion document is the possibility that consumer rights groups would be allowed to sue network providers who fall foul of the proposed regulations, Bloomberg reports.

"Rapid technological developments and globalization have profoundly changed the world around us, and brought new challenges for the protection of personal data," the document noted, adding that online social networking "presents significant challenges to the individual's effective control" over personal data.

Google and Facebook are among several internet companies already under EU scrutiny for possible breaches of privacy.

Data protection officials from 30 European countries have pushed Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to limit the amount of time they store search records and in May, Facebook was roundly criticised in Brussels for policy changes that were viewed as potentially harming users' rights.

The new discussion document will form the basis or further discussion in advance of draft legislation to be proposed in 2011.

This draft will then need the approval of authorities in individual EU nations, as well as lawmakers.

"We are confident that an effective modern privacy protection framework can support growth in the internet economy and can enable the free services that consumers value," said Justin B Weiss, Yahoo's international director of privacy.

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff