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Intel & Google staff revamp EU data protection laws

Partners help EC tackle technology challenges

Experts from search Engine Google and chipmaker Intel have been drafted in by the European Commission to help revise European Union laws on data protection.

According to European Commission spokesman Michele Cercone, Peter Fleischer from Google's global privacy counsel and Intel's group counsel for eBusiness, David Hoffman, have not been chosen as company representatives. Rather, they join a number of data protection lawyers and regulators contributing to the effort.

"The aim of the group is to identify issues and challenges raised by new technologies. We are not reviewing the main data protection laws at present, but this could be a first step."

According to Fleischer, many aspects of the existing EU legislation including the 1995 data protection directive - the cornerstone law, have been made obsolete by advances in technology.

He will urge the Commission to adopt a system where companies only have to deal with one national data protection authority, instead of having to meet the demands of all 27, as they do at present.

"There is a need for harmonisation of data protection enforcement in Europe," he said, adding that a system of mutual recognition among national authorities will go a long way in achieving that aim.

He also will try to persuade the Commission to move away from a location-based approach. "It worked when data was stored on paper, but with the internet that concept is obsolete because data travels around the world and is commonly stored in many different locations at once. There is a strong need for data protection laws to take the new technology into consideration," Fleischer said.

He pointed to Canada's approach, which is not location-based, but calls on data controllers, such as companies, to be responsible for data safety.

Finally, he wants data protection laws to apply to public institutions as well as to private companies, pointing out that some of the most serious threats to people's data and their privacy are posed by governments, not corporations. The 1995 law only applies to the private sector.

Privacy campaign groups are critical of Google's own approach to privacy. However, none were available to comment.


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