Correspondent's Choice

This story about EU data privacy rules for internet companies was published by EurActiv on 4th November 2010.

Web firms will have to seek Internet users’ explicit consent before downloading their personal data and must make it possible for private information to be deleted for good from the web, according to a European Commission strategy on data protection to be unveiled today (4 November).

According to the draft paper, seen by EurActiv, the Commission is gearing up for a crackdown on how web companies, in particular social networking sites and online advertising firms, use citizens’ private data.

“It is […] essential that individuals are well and clearly informed, in a transparent way, by data controllers about how and by whom their data are collected and processed, for what reasons [and] for how long,” reads the draft Commission communication.

Citizens should be kept informed of “what their rights are if they want to access, rectify or delete their data,” according to the paper, entitled ‘A comprehensive strategy on data protection in the European Union’.

Facebook and Google

The move stems in large part from problems the EU executive has had with web firms like Google, Yahoo! and Facebook.

Facebook has had lengthy privacy disputes with national data protection authorities and Commission sources say the company is not out of trouble yet.

“Some social networking sites have complied with stricter privacy rules, but with Facebook there have been some problems,” a Commission official said.

In particular, Facebook profiles do not disappear for good and can be reactivated, according to complaints made to the Commission, meaning that the data could – in theory – still be used by the company.

Users have also complained that there should be a privacy setting to prevent other users from posting pictures of them. Currently they can retroactively de-tag their names from other users’ photos, but not remove them altogether.

The official named German company StudieVZ and Microsoft’s MySpace as other sources of concern.

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