New laws to control your online image

Woman looking at FacebookInternet users unhappy about businesses such as Facebook and Google holding information on them will soon have the right to have that data erased, according to new European Commission legislation.

The draft reforms were announced after figures indicated that seven in 10 European citizens are concerned about the way their information is used online.

If approved, they should become law by the end of 2013. The aim is to limit the ways in which companies from Amazon to Google use their users' information, including photos and posts made by the individuals themselves.

To this end, the changes will introduce "a single set of rules on data protection that would be valid across the European Union's 27 member states" and will include mandatory reporting of "major" data breaches in 24 hours.

And the European Commission wants firms that breach the code to face hefty fines.

The proposals have been welcomed by campaigners for better online data protection. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: "We must be in control of our data, and must be able to trust that companies will respect our wishes."

However, access to a certain amount of personal information is critical element for a number of technology companies, some of which have warned that the proposed rules in their current form will be too complicated and expensive to implement.

Lawyers are also warning that the European Union risks setting up a legislative landscape at that differs greatly with that of the United States.

Meanwhile, even the Information Commissioner's Office is worried that some areas are "unnecessarily and unhelpfully over-prescriptive".

Nevertheless, Google - one of the companies set to be most affected by the new regime - told the Daily Mail: "We support simplifying privacy rules in Europe to both protect consumers online and stimulate economic growth. We look forward to debating the proposals over the coming months."
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