The European Union wants stronger rules that would give people more control over how their personal information is used by online companies like Google and Facebook.
The EU has directed its European Commission arm to draft proposals for new rules governing online data, looking to address a variety of questions: What happens to your personal data when you board a plane, open a bank account, or share photos online? How is this data used and by whom? How do you permanently delete profile information on social-networking Web sites? Can you transfer your contacts and photos to another service?
The new rules could require online companies to clearly explain to their users what personal information is collected, what happens to that information, and how people can modify or delete that information.
Both Google and Facebook have found themselves once again in hot water over privacy issues. Google admitted last month that it grabbed e-mails and passwords while taking photos for its Street View service. Facebook recently revealed that some of its app developers had been selling user information to a data broker.
Beyond addressing key questions and concerns about online data, the EC is also looking to set up a common set of rules that all 27 members of the EU would follow. The goal is to cut down on the current red tape and confusion that exists among businesses and law enforcement officials over online data collection.
Released yesterday, the EC's proposals (PDF) are expected to drive further discussion and debate on the topic of online data. These proposals will be the basis for the new rules that will be proposed next year to revise and modernize the EC's 1995 Data Protection Directive, which laid out regulations for protecting personal data and allowing the free flow of that data.
European citizens and other stakeholders have until January 15 of next year to comment on the new proposals.
"The protection of personal data is a fundamental right," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement. "To guarantee this right, we need clear and consistent data protection rules. We also need to bring our laws up to date with the challenges raised by new technologies and globalisation. The Commission will put forward legislation next year to strengthen individuals' rights while also removing red tape to ensure the free flow of data within the EU's Single Market."