THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) will begin to implement data protection reform with companies facing fines of up to five percent of global turnover to a maximum of €100m for failing to meet its standards.
A vote in the European Parliament increased potential fines from two to five percent of turnover and won approval today. Europe was told to expect better protection from the increasing surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The European Parliament voted to support a "level playing field" where non-European companies adhere to European rules established by a single body or face the consequences.
"The reasoning is simple," it said in a statement. "If companies outside Europe want to take advantage of the European market with more than 500 million potential customers, then they have to play by the European rules."
The European Parliament said that the changes will save european citizens from "surveillance activities like those unveiled since June 2013", adding that any web company should have to contact their country's data protection agency before sending any data overseas. Firms would also have to inform the individual whose data was being shipped.
European Commission VP Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, said that a strong message has been sent, and that changes to data protection will improve life for European citizens.
"This reform is a necessity, and now it is irreversible. Europe's directly elected parliamentarians have listened to European citizens and European businesses and, with this vote, have made clear that we need a uniform and strong European data protection law, which will make life easier for business and strengthen the protection of our citizens," said Reding.
"Data Protection is made in Europe. Strong data protection rules must be Europe's trade mark. Following the US data spying scandals, data protection is more than ever a competitive advantage. Today's vote is the strongest signal that it is time to deliver this reform for our citizens and our businesses."
However, not everyone is of the same mind. Democracy group La Quadrature du Net said that the decision does not go far enough, and talked of "loopholes" in the data protection rules.
"MEPs failed to fix several significant and dangerous loopholes. Citizens must urge their national governments to close these loopholes, in order to preserve those improvements and refrain the introduction of new derogations in the text," said Miriam Artino, policy analyst for La Quadrature du Net.
"As this Regulation will be finalised by the next Parliament, citizens should raise the issue with their candidates during the upcoming campaign."
The group added that despite this the agreement includes a number of positive changes.
In full support of the decision is European Parliament rapporteur for general data protection regulation, Jan Philipp Albrecht, who said that the draft rules should be adopted as soon as possible.
"I have a clear message to the Council: any further postponement would be irresponsible. The citizens of Europe expect us to deliver a strong EU wide data protection regulation," he said. "If there are some member states which do not want to deliver after two years of negotiations, the majority should go ahead without them."
Under the rules users will have more control over their data, where it goes and how it is used. Users will have a right to be forgotten if they no longer want to continue a relationship with a corporation, and will have more control over, and access to, their data in general.
Individuals will also be given the right to be forgotten, something that teenagers might come to appreciate when they enter the working world and want to put their errant social networking youths behind them. µ
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