THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has decreed that non-European companies, such as Google and Facebook, must abide by European Union (EU) data protection laws.
The decree that came out of Brussels on Friday sees the EU tightening privacy laws almost a year to the day since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on NSA surveillance. It means that internet companies - including those like Google, Facebook and Twitter - will have to abide by EU data rules if they do business in Europe.
However, while the EC warned internet technology firms that they must observe the same regulations imposed on European companies, it has yet to announce how it plans to enforce this. Google and Facebook have yet to comment.
In the ruling, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said, "In simple words: EU data protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory - the European Single Market.
"This might strike you as self-evident. But let me tell you: far from it. It was one of the most contentious points when I presented the data protection reform in January 2012. And companies still today argue differently taking the matter to courts."
This ruling is a timely one, as it comes on that same day that Vodafone revealed that the government can listen to citizens' phone calls and monitor their locations through secret cables connected directly to its, and its competitors, networks.
Commenting on the revelation, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said, "All these kind of things show how important it is to have data protection clearly established."
The EU is putting the finishing touches on a new data protection package that is expected to be finalised later this year, and comes just weeks after the ruling that Google must allow citizens the "right to be forgotten".
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