ICO consults data industry as EC sues UK over privacy

The Information Commissioner’s Office has started consultations over the Data Protection Directive, just as the European Commission has stepped up its legal action against the UK over privacy. While the ICO has given the data industry until 31st December to provide its views, Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, has moved the Phorm-related law suit to the second phase.

“People’s privacy and the integrity of their personal data in the digital world is not only an important matter, it is a fundamental right, protected by European law. That is why the Commission is vigilant in ensuring that EU rules and rights are put in place. I therefore call on the UK authorities to change their national laws to ensure that British citizens fully benefit from the safeguards set out in EU law concerning confidentiality of electronic communications,” says Reding.

Behavioural targeting was the trigger for the legal action and formed the focus of a recent round of meetings between privacy officers, data owners and the ICO in London. “There was not a lot of controversy because people don’t know what to do,” reports Jennifer Barrett, chief privacy officer for Acxiom.

The ICO is asking for submissions from the data industry “to obtain views on the new challenges for personal data protection to maintain an effective and comprehensive legal framework to protect individual’s personal data within the EU”. It has asked respondents to answer the three questions: the new challenges for personal data protection, in particular in the light of new technologies and globalisation; whether the current legal framework meets these challenges; and what future action would be needed to address the identified challenges.

Barrett warns that pressure for greater transparency and notification to consumers could lead to clumsy terms and conditions getting in the way of online activity. “There is not a lot of co-ordination between regulators.

Everybody is waiting for someone else to come up with an innovative solution to the problem,” says Barrett.

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