Data protection day: is your private life safe?

Published on Monday, 28 January 2013 09:39
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Cloud computing poses a larger threat to your privacy than you might think, according to an EP study. Europe marks today annual data protection day, an initiative to raise awareness of how people's personal information is collected and processed and how to best protect your private lives.

The EP is currently looking at plans to update current European rules on data protection to bring them in line with the latest technological developments and prevent misuse of private data.

Right to be forgotten

The European Commission proposes a reform of current legislation in order to have common rules for all member states. This would include the right to be forgotten: people would be able to have their personal data deleted if there is no legitimate ground for retaining it. The plans would also introduce fines for losing or divulging customer data. The two legislative proposals are currently being dealt with by Parliament.

Common standards for data protection

German Green MEP Jan-Philipp Albrecht, responsible for steering the regulation setting out a general EU framework for data protection through Parliament, said: "The right to be forgotten, the need for consent when using or transferring personal data, and sanctions in case of infringements of privacy rights are my three central demands for data protection standards for all EU citizens - no matter if inside or outside the EU."

Mr Albrecht welcomed the fact that the new data protection regulation would be valid everywhere in the EU. "This will help strengthen consumer rights, provide companies with legal certainty and give citizens more trust in companies."

Need for reform

Greek Social Democrat MEP Dimitrios Droutsas, who deals with the directive on protecting personal data processed for judicial purposes to avoid misuse of data by police and other law enforcement authorities, said there was a pressing need in Europe for a reform of data protection law due to changing social norms and technological advancements. "The Commission, the Parliament and yes, the Council, we all have to work diligently in order to ensure the highest level of protection for European citizens before the end of this legislature in 2014."

Risk of spying and fraud

A study published by the EP's internal policies directorate-general identified  potential risks: "The challenge of privacy in cloud computing is underestimated, if not ignored. The main concern arising from the growing reliance on cloud computing is less the possible increase in cyber fraud or crime than the loss of control over individual identity and data."

This reports also points out that US law authorises the surveillance of cloud data of non-American citizens. US authorities would not be bound by the proposed reform of EU rules, but it is something that could be dealt with by opening EU-US negotiations, according to the report published at the end of last year.

Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor, urged people to be careful: "Your personal information is valuable so keep it safe and be aware of your rights when you share it! You have the right to know what information is held about you on major industry and government databases. There could be implications for you if the information is not accurate and you are entitled to check the information that is held and used about you."

Source: ©EuroParl

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