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EU lawmakers seek to limit use of data by internet firms

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 9 Jan 2013 09:29 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Claire Davenport

BRUSSELS, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Internet companies such as Facebook and Google may have to get more permission to use information if European Union lawmakers give users more control over their personal data.

EU lawmakers want to limit companies' ability to use and sell data, such as internet browsing habits, to advertising companies, especially when people are unaware their data is being used in such a way.

"Users must be informed about what happens with their data," said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Member of the European Parliament who is driving the reform. "And they must be able to consciously agree to data processing - or reject it."

Facebook and Google, who were among the first to profit from users' data, have been lobbying against the curbs. Other data-reliant sectors such as health services, rail and smart-meter makers have also voiced concerns.

Albrecht, a Green politician, plans to announce on Wednesday a plan to make sure users of search engines and social networks can control how much of their data is sold to advertisers.

A report he produced, which was seen by Reuters, builds on a proposal announced by the European Commission last January for tougher data protection.

The European Parliament, the Commission and the bloc's 27 countries will seek an agreement on the rules in coming months.

Internet companies worry it will have a chilling effect on a thriving business.

"We are concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European digital single market and the reality of innovation on the internet," Erika Mann, head of EU policy for Facebook, said.

The digital market was inescapably global in nature, and included important partners in the United States, she said.

The amount of online data collected and sold has grown rapidly. Currently, over 60 hours of YouTube content is uploaded every minute.

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