EU to take fight to Facebook, MySpace & Twitter over user's right to privacy - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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EU to take fight to Facebook, MySpace & Twitter over user's right to privacy

Saturday, 30 January 2010
Two weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg, the 25-year old founder of social networking site Facebook, told the world that 'the age of privacy is over' and we should 'just get over it, no one cares about privacy anymore' - a message that sparked off huge opposition around the world.

No more so than in the corridors of the European Commission, who have responded by announcing its intentions to introduce comprehensive new laws protecting European user's privacy.

Viviane Reding vows to fight for user's right to privacy online (Photo: European Parliament)Setting their sights the massively popular website, Viviane Reding, above, the Commissioner charged with the dossier of Information Society & Media, set out her intentions in a keynote speech amongst the events scheduled to mark the EU's 2010 Data Protection Day on 28th January.

Mrs Reding warned that "data protection rules must be updated to keep abreast of technological change to ensure the right to privacy," and referring to the new powers gained under the Lisbon Treaty and the legal basis given to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Commission said it wants to create "a clear, modern set of rules" that would guarantee a high level of personal data protection and privacy.

This will come as good news for EU users since earlier legislation was so limited by its possible scope that it was restricted to issues concerning the European Community - the so-called first pillar of the EU - and not issues of foreign affairs or justice which were the second and third pillars respectively.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (Photo: Telegraph)Unusually mentioning Facebook, Myspace and Twitter by name, Mrs Reding said she will start this year with a revision of the 1995 Data Protection Directive, and made it abundantly clear that privacy issues are at the forefront of her ambitions.

"Innovation is important in today's society but should not go at the expense of people's fundamental right to privacy," she said.

"Whether we want it or not, almost every day we share personal data about ourselves. These data are collected, processed and then stored out of our sight. By booking a flight ticket, transferring money, applying for a job or just using the Internet we are exposing our private lives to others. Sometimes it is necessary," she continued.

"But data are being collected without our consent and often without our knowledge. This is where European law comes in."

She said that people should have the right "to say no ...whenever they want."

While far too early to say what these new laws will entail, it is clear that greater pressure will be applied to the sites themselves, who "must use their power of innovation to improve the protection of privacy and personal data from the very beginning of the development cycle."

Body Scanner already in use at Schiphol airport, Netherlands (Photo: Guardian)Mrs Reding concluded by saying Europe must set the global agenda in terms of privacy protection and said that the prospect of installing the controversial body scanners at airports have not escaped her gaze.

"I am convinced that body scanners have a considerable privacy-invasive potential but their usefulness is still to be proven," she said.

"Their impact on health has not yet been fully assessed; therefore I cannot imagine this privacy-intrusive technique being imposed on us without full consideration of its impact."

Have your say: How much do you value your privacy online? Do you welcome the EU's intention to greatly improve the laws protecting your data? Post your comments below...

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