EU seeking unification of data protection laws

A leading EU commissioner has called for member states to look into standardising legislation relating to data protection and security to facilitate the flow of information between businesses and organisations in protecting the private data of European citizens.

Viviane Reding, who champions justice, rights and citizenship at the EU, said that it would be better for all if data protection was governed by a consistent set of rules which resembled and adhered to the same standards as those set out by the EU itself.

Ms. Reding said that many businesses in the UK and throughout the EU had said, during consultations, that data protection legislation was often disparate and difficult to navigate when operating at an international level. Although the EU set out a Data Protection Directive fifteen years ago, countries are able to model their own regulations around it, resulting in disparate systems and standards.

A call for greater transparency is being made, with the rights of the individual to control and monitor the usage of their own data set to be strengthened.

Ms. Reding believes that any business or organisation that is in control of and consequently responsible for private data needs to keep the individual user informed as to their rights and the way in which their data might be used from the outset. This includes notifying users as to how they can go about requesting the removal of their details should they no longer desire third party access to them.

Ms. Reding said that member states should be more willing to exchange data both within the union and with other international organisations in order to promote a culture of trust. She also believes that simplifying the process of sharing data will mean that criminal and legal matters that cross international boundaries can be more efficiently handled.

The EU is set to become ever more open to sharing data with the US as part of an agreement that Ms. Reding is forging, although she says that this will only be possible if the level of protection afforded to the data is in line with EU regulations.

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