BRUSSELS: Tough new European Union (EU) data protection rules that could limit certain types of online marketing are facing challenges from both sides of the Atlantic.

Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for justice, has rejected attempts of US lobbyists to water down the proposals that would force global technology companies, including the likes of Google and Facebook, to obey European standards across the world.

The proposals update existing EU data protection laws, which date back to the 1990s, and will be voted on by the European Parliament later in the year before being adopted by member states.

They include the need for explicit consumer consent ("opt-in") if personal data is to be collected and used by companies', the "right to be forgotten" – whereby firms must delete consumer data when it is no longer needed when requested by consumers, and a ban on "profiling" – targeting marketing communications at individual consumers preselected by a company.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Reding said: "Exempting non-EU companies from our data protection regulation is not on the table. It would mean applying double standards.

"If companies want to tap into the European market they have to apply European standards," she added.

But Peter Olson, a member of the Industry Coalition for Data Protection, warned that not only did the reforms fail to improve users' privacy rights, they also risked hurting companies' business models.

He called for "fair, balanced but yet progressive legislation for industry and consumers", adding that "It should not be obstructed by politics or attempts to antagonise regions of the world and pit corporations against one another, as this would be a sure path to regulatory failure and economic contraction."

Speakers at a London meeting on the subject last week organised by the Direct Marketing Association - a full report from which is available to Warc subscribers – claimed that the planned reforms could stifle industry growth and innovation.

Attendees at Data Protection 2013 could not settle on a workable definition of "profiling", but, depending on interpretation, there is scope for greatly restricting marketers' capacity to use targeted online advertising in the new proposals.

Christopher Graham, the UK's Information Commissioner, told those present to get involved.
"The direct marketing industry has an important role to play in the legislative process," he said. 

"It must focus on good practice and respect consumers. It must also remember that this is the crucial turning point in a long game; while there is a lot more work to do on the Regulation, the industry must engage further with legislators now." 

Data sourced from FT/DMA/Warc; additional content by Warc staff