People have "right to be forgotten" online, says EU

Brussels lawmakers are looking to toughen up online data protection

Stewart Mitchell
4 Nov 2010

The European Commission wants to strengthen data protection rules to give more power to consumers – including the right to be forgotten online.

In a seemingly contradictory statement, the commission set out its strategy for strengthening data protection while at the same time making data more freely available.

"The protection of personal data is a fundamental right," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. 

People should have the 'right to be forgotten' when their data is no longer needed or they want their data to be deleted

"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," Reding said.

“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."

Informed consent

In light of ongoing behavioural advertising activity and all-too-frequent privacy gaffes from the likes of Google and Facebook, the most relevant aspect of the proposals was an outline of how the EC could strengthen consumer protection.

The commission said it would look to keep personal data collection and use to a minimum, with transparent notification on how, why, by whom, and for how long data was used.

“People should be able to give their informed consent to the processing of their personal data,” the commission said in a statement. “They should have the 'right to be forgotten' when their data is no longer needed or they want their data to be deleted.”

The other key areas under consideration are tighter guidelines on how the police and criminal justice departments are able to store data, international recognition of European procedures, and more effective enforcement from data watchdogs such as the UK's Information Commissioner's Office.

After a period of consultation, the EC plans to push legislation through next year.

The UK Government is still facing the threat of court action from European lawmakers for its ongoing failure to make UK laws comply with the 1995 Data Protection Directive that should give Britons the same protection enjoyed in the rest of Europe.

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