EU legislation to give Internet users more control

PARIS -- New legislation in the EU could give online users more control over their information, limiting search engines and social networks from exploiting personal data.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – The European Union Commission in Brussels is introducing new legislation to limit the use of online personal information by businesses like Facebook and Google.  The proposed legislation, presented on Wednesday, could mean tighter restrictions on what major corporations can do with users’ photos and other data.

With the recent Stop Online Piracy Act in the US, new laws regulating the Internet have been a hot topic in the past few weeks.  While the stalled SOPA aims to protect copyright information for corporations, the EU is looking to do almost the same thing for individuals.  It’s no secret that online businesses can capitalize on user information to help advertises target people based on interests or web browsing habits.  If the EU legislation passes, such practices could become more difficult for companies, theoretically giving individuals great control.

Viviane Reding, , Vice-president and European Commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship proposed the new measures, stating that 72% of Europeans worry about the safety of their online identity.  “This law aims to reinforce online confidence by being better informed about our rights to control our information,” she said, as reported in Le Telegramme.com.

According to French daily Le Monde, personal information used in Europe, regardless of where it is stored, is subject to the new law.  Companies must explain clearly to users how and for how long their information will be used, obtaining consent from every user.  Search engines, online sellers, and social networks will all be subject to the legislation.

Under the proposed legislation, photos and contact groups, for example, belong 100% to the user, who control the content even when unsubscribing from a website.  One of the most important parts of the law’s text is the idea of the right to “digital deletion.”  If the law goes into effect, companies will have to completely erase any information uploaded by a user upon demand and can no longer be used.

Penalties for companies could range between 1-5% percent of their profits, or up to one million euros.  Details are still unclear as opposition to the law argues that Google and smaller businesses should not face identical fines.  Other critics say that the measures could stifle economic growth and innovation among online companies.

Exactly how the law will work to control American and other foreign websites operating in Europe remains to be seen.

Photo: Getty/Europe in the World

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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