French official: Europe must defend privacy rights

Nov 18, 2011 By JAMEY KEATEN , Associated Press

(AP) -- Europe and the United States don't agree on how to strike the right balance between protecting privacy rights and battling the terror threat, the head of France's data protection watchdog said Friday.

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin said the EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, should defend data privacy rights amid "strong" pressure from U.S. officials to get access information about for security reasons.

"In my view, notably in the international sphere and in talks with the , the balance between data protection and security is very strained," Falque-Pierrotin told The Associated Press in an interview.

European authorities "understand" America's concerns about terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 , she said. But Europe "is trying to negotiate to make sure that data and is respected. On that matter, we're not totally aligned."

The EU said Thursday it had signed an accord with the United States over air-passenger data for flights from Europe to America that will limit what information U.S. officials can use and will improve data protection. The agreement replaces one in 2007 that the criticized for having given U.S. authorities too much authority to view the of EU citizens.

Reding left Friday for the United States, where she was to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Falque-Pierrotin, who became the head of the French data protection authority CNIL in October, said her top priority was helping the EU revise its data protection rules, which date back to 1995.

The revision, expected to be presented in January, could have for how U.S.-based Internet giants like and Google do business in the EU - a 27-nation bloc whose combined economy is bigger than America's - and beyond.

The reform centers on two areas: the "right to be forgotten" - which would give consumers the ability to require companies to remove their data from corporate records, and "data portability" - which would allow a person to move his or her data from one service provider to another.

The EU itself has to iron out its own differences over privacy issues. Countries like France and Germany favor stronger protections for privacy, while Ireland, Britain and others prefer more market-friendly rules.

The CNIL, which has no direct U.S. counterpart, straddles issues like public security and the Internet economy. It helps ensure that the eyes of Big Brother - like the 570,000 government security cameras around France - do not infringe on people's right to privacy, or that workers aren't unfairly spied on by their employers.

Privacy issues in the Internet Age have ballooned: in 2006, the CNIL rendered just 60 rulings on data-protection appeals from the public; Last year, that figure had soared to 1,800, Falque-Pierrotin said.

In March, the CNIL handed Google its first-ever fine - euro100,000 ($140,000) for improperly gathering and storing e-mails, web browsing histories, online banking details and other data from WiFi networks as it deployed camera-mounted cars and bicycles around Europe to collect images and information for its Street View application.

apologized and pledged to delete the data.

"All of the studies show that citizens are beginning to worry about how their personal data is used," Falque-Pierrotin said. "Consumers are starting to evolve, mature and demand more accountability."

Explore further: What safeguards are in Australia's data retention plans?

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU, US discuss data protection deal

Apr 14, 2011

EU and US officials met in Hungary Thursday to try to move forward negotiations for a framework deal to protect the privacy of European citizens' data in future anti-terror operations.

Dutch data watchdog blasts Google data collection

Apr 19, 2011

(AP) -- The Dutch data protection watchdog criticized Google on Tuesday for collecting data on private wireless networks, ordering it to contact 3.6 million Dutch WiFi owners and offer them a way to have their data deleted.

France joins probes into Google Street View

Jun 17, 2010

France became the latest country Thursday to probe Google for gathering personal data as its Street View bikes and cars photographed cities across the world for the controversial mapping service.

US probes Google Street View data grabs (Update)

Jun 21, 2010

The attorney general of the US state of Connecticut is looking into whether Google broke the law by capturing people's personal data from wireless networks while Street View bicycles and cars mapped streets. ...

EU, US to share banking data in terror probes

Jun 28, 2010

(AP) -- The European Union and U.S. signed a long-awaited deal Monday to share financial data in suspected terrorist cases, after the U.S. agreed to major concessions to allay European concerns over privacy.

Recommended for you

Facebook help a matter of timing

Mar 04, 2015

Getting a response to a request for assistance on social media may have more to do with your request's timing than how many followers you have, research suggests.

Supreme Court allows challenge to Colorado Internet tax law

Mar 03, 2015

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal courts can hear a dispute over Colorado's Internet tax law. One justice suggested it was time to reconsider the ban on state collection of sales taxes from companies outside ...

Clinton ran own computer system for her official emails

Mar 03, 2015

The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails—on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state—traced back to an Internet ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 19, 2011
I think it is quite possible that the reason for the European position is that they have experienced the Gestapo first hand and those of us in the US have not.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.