EU's Privacy Rules Push Facebook and Google into a Tight Spot

online_privacySites such as Facebook and Google are pushing us further and further into the much dreaded goldfish bowl universe where privacy is nothing but a myth, but the EU has decided that they are going to take a tough stance on proper data protection. European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has unveiled new legislation that would ensure the protection of all Europeans’ personal data on the internet. Facebook and Google have been told to comply with these new standards or else face court action.

The Right to be Forgotten

Perhaps the most striking part of Judge Reding’s statement about this new policy was this: That people have the ‘right to be forgotten’. Any picture or piece of data that you put on the internet can be deleted permanently. Once you request for the deletion of your data, sites such as Facebook or Google should comply without question. The problem, of course, is that we don’t really know where our data is anymore. The new ‘right to be forgotten’ phrase will be particularly useful when it comes to the phone numbers and addresses that people have given over to the Social Networking sites previously, only to regret that decision later as they find their privacy breached over and over again by advertisers and solicitors. Reding says that no ‘ghost’ of this data should be found on any little server out there once you decide that it should be deleted. The problem with this, of course, is the execution. Still, at least this idea is a good start.

Another stipulation in the new legislation called for complete transparency in how these sites collect their data. It has never been clear how data is gathered and how it is used. But this new legislation will press these social networking sites to finally come clean. Next, Reding insisted that the privacy settings be placed on the shoulders of the social networking sites. For example, when you sign up, the default setting for profile viewing would be ‘friends only’ instead of ‘can be viewed by everyone’. Reding says that people should not have to go through ‘considerable operational effort’ to put their privacy settings in place.

The Umbrella Effect

The final stipulation made by Reding’s new legislation is this: that there would be ‘protection regardless of location’. This statement was an obvious arrow aimed at Facebook and Google, both of which are US based. Reding’s words were actually ‘a US-based social network company that has millions of active users in Europe needs to comply with EU rules’ – it doesn’t actually take a rocket scientist to figure out what she’s talking about. Reding also criticized how the US doesn’t seem to take privacy issues seriously.

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