Facebook Must Heed EU's Stricter Data Laws

The European Union's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding wants Facebook to get ready for stricter data protection laws.

Facebook, get ready for stricter data protection laws in the European Union.

Any company that wants to do business within the 27-nation region will have to comply with stricter data privacy laws, said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, according to Bloomberg and Reuters coverage of her speech in Brussels today.

The EU began overhauling its 16-year-old data protection laws in November. The new legislation is expected to come out later year, and may include stricter penalties for infractions and more empowerment of consumers.

As Bloomberg quoted from Reding’s speech:

Privacy standards for European citizens should apply independently of the area of the world in which their data is being processed… A U.S.-based social network company that has millions of active users in Europe needs to comply with EU rules…. National privacy watchdogs shall be endowed with powers to investigate and engage in legal proceedings against non-EU data controllers whose services target EU consumers… [Consumers will get] ..the right, and not only the possibility, to withdraw their consent…

She explained that companies will have to prove why they need to collect data from users — the onus won’t be on consumers to prove why companies shouldn’t retain the users’ information.

This framework certainly sounds stricter than what U.S. entities like the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce have proposed for protecting consumer privacy.

It will be interesting to see how the EU regulations compare to what Facebook already does. We suspect that the social network is already compliant with Europe’s framework.

Readers, what do you think about the EU’s stance on data privacy?

Reding, 59, hadn’t previously said how the rules would affect U.S.-based firms.