Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter collect data from their users without their permission and this personalized data can be used, in large measure, to produce targeted advertisement. Advertising networks collect information across a wide span of sites, using cookies that are placed on a user’s computer when loading a page containing an ad, and then they use the Web surfing history to deliver other ads. Every time a user clicks on a “like” on Facebook or plus in Google that information is collected use by these companies and their clients. Internet users’ movements on the web are also being tracked for further use by countless other entities—both public and private.
Europe has been signaling an overhaul of its data protection laws that date from 1995. Last week, one legislator, Jan Philipp Albrecht, a member of the Green Party from Hamburg, introduced a bill that would create a new agency to enforce a series of measures giving Internet users greater control of their online information.
If approved, the proposal would replace an advisory panel to the European Commission with a privacy regulator with the power to make decisions for the 27 members of the European Union and levy fines of up to 2 per cent of a company’s revenue that violates Europe’s data protection laws.
The new measures would prohibit the use of a range of standard Web tracking and profiling practices that companies use to produce targeted advertising unless consumers give their explicit prior consent.
The bill would also grant European consumers a fundamental new right: data portability, or the right to easily transfer one’s personal posts, photos and video from one online service site to another.
A coalition of US, Asian and European businesses and advertisers have criticized the proposed plan, which would give Europeans much stronger legal protections to control their online identities than people elsewhere. However, the enactment of these laws is very good news for consumers concerned about the lack of regulation regarding data collection and user’s tracking on the interned and on social networks.
The European Parliament will vote on the proposal in April, and a final agreement with the upper house is expected later this year.