Europe to Get Tough on Facebook Privacy Issues?

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European politicians are a circumspect bunch: they don’t tend to call out American tech companies directly. Still, the speech that European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding delivered yesterday left little doubt that the European Union is giving Facebook and Google Street View the stinkeye over privacy issues.

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Reding laid out “four pillars” of people’s rights with respect to personal data: the “right to be forgotten” (i.e. to refuse consent to data processing), “transparency” (she called out control of what data is made public in social networks, in particular), “privacy by default” (rather than forcing users to dig up and change privacy settings), and “protection regardless of data location.” This last led to Reding’s comment that, “for example, a US-based social network company that has millions of active users in Europe needs to comply with EU rules.” Wonder which US-based social network company she means?

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Reding also noted, apropos of a discussion of coordination of data-protection efforts between the EU’s states, that “you may have heard about concerns in many EU Member States related to online mapping services including pictures of streets and people’s homes.” Again, no names mentioned, or necessary.

According to The Guardian, Reding plans to introduce EU legislation to force Facebook to make more user privacy its default: “After you have withdrawn your consent,” Reding spokesman Matthew Newman says, “there shouldn’t even be a ghost of your data left in some server somewhere. It’s your data and it should be gone for good.”