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EU Gets Tough On Privacy

Not on our turf

The European Union warns it will intervene to protect users' personal data from abuse, reports Reuters.

In a speech that underscores EU's seriousness about protecting user privacy, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kunevaco will set tougher rules on how Internet users' personal data should or should not be handled by search engines and service providers.

"The current situation with regard to privacy, profiling and targeting is not satisfactory. Basic consumer rights in terms of transparency, control and risk are being violated and this cannot continue," she will say in the speech, the content of which was obtained by Reuters in advance.

Targeted ads and tracking consumer habits have boomed over the past year as marketers develop increasingly sophisticated means to personalize their advertising by linking their ads to users' search and browsing habits.

Internet giants Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and others have announced measures to protect users' data by cutting the time they store personal data and by allowing users to opt out of targeted advertising.

These measures are unlikely to ward off Kuneva's wrath, who accuses opt-out systems of being partial, difficult, confusing, and unstable. She also said that avoiding tracking will be unrealistic.

In 2007, after complaints from Facebook users, the EU launched a study of targeted ads.

But if the industry fails to offer adequate responses on data collection and profiling, the EU will intervene, Kuneva warns - citing principles of transparency, clear language, and easy to use opt-in or opt-out options as guidelines.

In February, social networking sites operating in Europe signed a signed a pact dedicated to tackling the problem of "cyberbullying" and protect the privacy of underage users.


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