European Commission clarifies data protection reform

The European Commission released a handy FAQ today answering questions in regards to the up and coming reform of the EU’s Data Protection Directive, which was written up way back in 1995, an era where broadband did not yet exist. In addition, the Lisbon Treaty also gives the Commission to address data protection in the whole of the EU, including policies defining how police forces and judicial institutions should handle data when cooperating.

Social notworking sites such as Farcebook and Myspace as well as the mighty Google will find themselves in shackles, as the EC is working on new rules saying companies handling a user’s data will have to inform users how and by whom their data is processed and collected. Users will find a “right to be forgotten” bestowed upon them, which would force Facebook to permanently delete all and any data if a user would decide on deleting his or her profile.

The Commission also wants users to be informed how they are being targeted by behavioural advertising. “People should be aware when online retailers use previously viewed web sites as a basis to make product suggestions”, stated the official press release.

Lobbyists are going to have a field day soon, as the reform will also include the financial industry, as the commission is considering have other sectors inform users and customers “if their data has been unlawfully accessed, altered or destroyed by unauthorised persons.” Banks are rather touchy in this area, as it fears customers will run away if they find out their accounts aren’t secure – just like their four-digit protected debit cards.

Despite a EU-wide harmonisation of data protection rules, the Commission wants to strengthen national authorities to enforce the rules. National data protection bodies will have to work closer together, especially since user data is nowadays spread across a common market and beyond. In regards to third countries, the EC wants citizens of the EU to have the same rights in regards to their data as third country nationals have.

The Commission claims it will have worked out a new directive in 2011, which will then head off to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.