EU sets new regional data protection rules

European politicians have agreed new data protection rules for companies headquartered outside the European Union, as part of reforms of privacy laws.

The change aims to cut down on the number of companies locating their European businesses in member countries with more relaxed data protection rules, Reuters reported. Companies including Google and Facebook currently comply with relevant rules on a country by country basis, however, the new approach effectively levels the playing field by applying the same laws throughout the EU.

EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, said all companies operating in Europe must abide by the new rules, the news agency added.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS)--an independent supervisory authority focused on protecting personal data and privacy--said proposed data protection reforms are vital to safeguard Europeans' fundamental rights to privacy and data protection, and called on the Greek Presidency of the European Council to stand firm in pushing the reforms through.

"The EDPS urges the Council to make substantive progress on these issues as soon as possible, and encourages it not to weaken what is currently a robust and comprehensive proposal for a Regulation," the supervisory body stated.

Data protection is a hot topic in Europe following allegations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of widespread snooping by the security agency and its UK counterpart, GCHQ.

UK-headquartered operator Vodafone fanned the flames on Friday, when it disclosed details of security services' surveillance of Vodafone's customers in 29 of its global markets, including requests for access by European countries.

The EDPS said the revelations mean EU citizens "are more aware than ever of the importance of their personal data," and are "increasingly sceptical of the ability of governments to protect them."

It added that the Council "must act boldly to restore public trust in EU data protection policy."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see the EDPS statement [PDF]

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