Facebook, Google 'must adhere' to strict EU privacy rules

Facebook, Google and other major social networks and sites will be forced to become compliant with EU data protection laws, and give greater rights back to the end consumer.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Facebook, Google and other social networks and sites with a presence in Europe must heed to the European strict data privacy rules, said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Companies outside the 27-strong nation European wall, including the United States, must now begin changing their own privacy practices to continue working from within Europe.

The EU began its overhauling of its privacy laws last November, with new legislation expected to give greater powers to the end consumer, and stricter penalties for those who break the rules.


Though Facebook was not directly mentioned, it was made clear by the speech Reding gave in Brussels today that Facebook was in her sights.

From the Wall Street Journal:

"A U.S.-based social network company that has millions of active users in Europe needs to comply with EU rules. To enforce the EU law, national privacy watchdogs shall be endowed with powers to investigate and engage in legal proceedings against non-EU data controllers whose services target EU consumers."

Yet from the Guardian, it is clear that Facebook is most definitely a target for the highest data protection officer in Europe. Matthew Newman, spokesperson for Commissioner Reding said:

"A year ago she issued Facebook a warning because the privacy settings changed for the worse and now she's legislating to put flesh on those bones."

Following on from her speech last year, Reding wants users to have the right to delete data they see no longer fit for purpose on websites like Google and Facebook. Reding also made clear that companies should make clear why personal data might be collected to justify its purpose.

The European Union has enabled strict data protection rules, far greater than that of the United States, since 1998 when all European countries were told by EU directive to apply new legislation.

For European companies and US wholly owned subsidiary companies in Europe to send data from within the EU to the United States must adhere to the mutually agreed Safe Harbour principles, which dictate data privacy and security regarding to data transfer.

However, the United States has a long way to go before the European Commission deems it a fully compliant nation with its standards in regards to privacy.

Until the US legislates, all the Commission can do is legislate itself and force privately held companies like Google and Facebook to comply, to retain its presence in the region.

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