Internet-related privacy issues on the EU institutions' agenda
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The privacy problems created by the Internet and other new technologies such
as RFID have an important place on the agenda of the European
institutions that seem to be more anxious than ever to tackle those issues.
The hearing at the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee reported
in the last EDRi-gram seems to be only the top of the iceberg.
Article 29 working party will discuss at the next meeting, on 18 February
2008, the highly sensitive topic of privacy & search engines, and it is
probable to adopt an Opinion on this topic.
But the views of the Working party’s members are already public, after the
last month meeting at the European Parliament. Moreover, Peter Schaar,
Germany’s Federal Data Protection Commissioner and Chairman of the Article
29 working party, made some straightforward comments to Financial Times,
explaining that the cookie and search data retention period is too long :
“For me personally it still seems rather long, and I could imagine I am not
He underlined the fact that IP addresses are considered as personal
information according to the EU legislation and dismissed security concerns
as a reason to keep data: “I cannot imagine that it is necessary to store
data such as IP addresses for security reasons. What is the security threat?
Security purposes don’t justify the long-term storage of this data.”
Other national data protection agencies are looking into more privacy
aspects of computer usage. The Spanish Data Protection defined last year the
filtering of information for purposes other than virus and spam protection
as “not in conformity with Spanish law”. Also Article 29 Working Party plans
to investigate targeted advertising, which could cause problems for Google
The European Commission is also working on a document on RFID policy, that
will include the privacy aspects, based on the discussions in the RFID
working group. It is not clear yet if the document will be a binding
regulation or recommendation.
EurActiv website points that the Commission will publish, in the next weeks,
a new EU survey that shows “an overwhelming majority considers public
awareness about privacy and data management to be low, but at the same time
almost 75% of respondents say they are worried about leaving personal
information on the Internet.”
Apparently the Commission expects these results and is looking at
increasing the funding for awareness-raising campaigns and technologies
which improve privacy protection.
EU targets online privacy fears (11.02.2008)
EU mulls new measures to protect privacy on the Web (7.02.2008)
EDRi-gram: European Parliament hearing on Internet privacy issues