EU will consider the ‘right to be forgotten’ on the internet

The European Union is considering a law guaranteeing “the right to be forgotten” on the internet as the European Commission attempts to revamp the Data Protection Directive (1995).

Feb 2, 2012
By Paul Jacques

The European Union is considering a law guaranteeing “the right to be forgotten” on the internet as the European Commission attempts to revamp the Data Protection Directive (1995).

Vice-President Of The European Commission and Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding revealed the plans for the law at a conference in Munich. Matthew Newman, a spokesman for the commissioner, highlighted that the new laws were intended to help protect young adults manage their own private data online.

He clarified that young people are “not always as aware as they could be about the consequence of putting photos and other information on social network websites”. He also stated that young people are not always fully conscious of the various privacy settings available on social networking sites and that this could prove harmful.

The commissioner did say that there were some circumstances that will be exempt from these new rules. “The archives of a newspaper are a good example”, she said. “It is clear that the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history”.

Firms will be obligated to inform users of any security breaches “within 24 hours” of the data being lost. Companies will also have to explicitly seek permission to use data, on top of informing users when their data is being collected. Firms who break the rules could be fined as much as one per cent of their global income.

If the new law passes, it will be the first pan-EU data privacy rule. It will also encompass overseas companies that are active in the EU, even if they function on non-EU servers.

“The current EU Data Protection laws date from 1995, from pre-internet times,” added Ms Reding. “In 1993, the internet carried only one per cent of all telecommunicated information. Today, the figure has risen to more than 97 per cent.”

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