eu: Do internet companies protect personal data well enough?

Claims that big internet companies, such as Google or Yahoo, track the on-line behaviour of millions of users, so as to be able to sell the resulting data to on-line advertisers, raise difficult issues, such as whether these data could also be used for other purposes that violate personal privacy, said data protection, industry and consumer protection bodies at a public hearing held by the Civil Liberties Committee on 21 January.The fact that privacy laws differ markedly from country to country, whilst internet use knows no borders, complicates any attempt at a definitive answer, but a common EU, or even transatlantic, approach on how to protect internet users’ data is badly needed, stressed Sophia in ‘t Veld (ALDE, NL). On the other hand, internet companies are unlikely to give up on their activities: on-line advertising is a 27 billion dollar market, which is expected to double in four years.”Community law on data protection does apply on the Internet, it applies to both online and offline realities (…). Existing rules do apply and do provide safeguards”, affirmed European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx, in contrast to the view, stated by Stavros Lambrinidis (PES, EL), at a press conference beforehand, that “there is no EU legislation per se to ensure that information targeting behaviour for marketing purposes will not be used for other activities that far exceed the initial purpose”.

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