How should our online privacy be protected?
The European Commission has set out to completely overhaul old privacy laws to make sure we’re protected online. Not only should less data be taken from us, but we should have the ‘right to be forgotten’ online.
If I started talking about cookies, would you be dreaming of tasty snacks or postulating about website data?
Well if you’re thinking of the former, you’ll be disappointed to hear that there’ll soon be laws to stop cookies from being sent to your computer. If you’re thinking of the latter, then you should be ecstatic.
‘Free cookies for everyone!’ That’s what some websites like to profess. But when they’re using these for targeted ads without your consent, it’s time to worry about your online privacy.
Thankfully from May next year UK law will be amended to be in line with EU regulations that demand your prior consent before sites track your surfing habits.
EU steps up personal data protection
But after consulting with organisations like ourselves, the European Commission wants to take data protection even further. In a 20-page document published this week, it has set out to completely overhaul a directive that dates back to the good ‘ole 90s. The hope is that our online protection will go much further than just cookie consent.
In one instance the EU Commission wants to strengthen penalties for companies that violate privacy laws – such as Google accidentally trawling emails and passwords. Somewhat controversially, the company has so far gone unpunished.
Secondly, not only must websites be much more transparent about how they use our data, how long it’s held and who sees it, there should be a minimisation of the personal data they collect from us.
Plus, the Commission thinks we should all have the ‘right to be forgotten’ online. At the moment, that’s often very difficult to achieve. How, for example, can you permanently delete your profile information on Facebook?
It’s already a hidden process that leaves many users simply deactivating their account. But even if you do manage to delete your data, like photos, it could still be languishing somewhere in a database on the other side of the world – without your knowledge.
What does Which? think
Our in-house lawyer Georgian Nelson has this to say about the proposals: ‘The internet has exploded since the 90s and the volume of personal data now online is huge. So it’s certainly about time that the legislators looked in detail at what’s going on behind that web page.
‘We really welcome the Commission putting consumers’ privacy rights at the forefront of the agenda, and we’ll be working with other organisations to ensure that privacy is still a priority throughout, and beyond, the consultation process.’
The European Commission will now be asking for public consultation (you can tell them your thoughts here) before putting the revised privacy directive into effect sometime next year. Do you think the proposals to protect our online privacy go far enough?
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