European Commission unveils new online privacy rules, aims to protect consumer data

As SOPA's aftershocks continue to ripple across the US, a slightly different brand of techno-political drama is unfolding over in Europe, where the European Commission today announced a new set of online privacy regulations. The new legislation, unveiled this morning, was crafted with the intent of giving consumers more control over their online data, and places more pressure upon private companies to protect user information. According to Reuters, offending firms could be fined at rates of up to two percent of their yearly turnover. The laws, designed to overhaul the 1995 Data Protection Directive, will also make it easier for users to access their data, giving them the power to demand that their personal information be deleted, as long as there are no "legitimate reasons" for a company to store it. Companies, meanwhile, will be required to inform authorities of a data breach as soon as possible, "if feasible, within 24 hours."

Though the rules have raised some concerns among web companies, EC privacy commissioner Viviane Reding wasted no time in heralding them as the foundation of a safer and more prosperous digital environment. "The protection of personal data is a fundamental right for all Europeans, but citizens do not always feel in full control of their personal data," Reding explained. "A strong, clear and uniform legal framework at EU level will help to unleash the potential of the digital single market and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation." If approved by the European Parliament and all EU member states, the laws would probably go into effect toward the end of 2013.