Personal data overhaul for EU citizens

New laws to be introduced across the EU from January will give citizens better control of their personal information and make it easier to access, correct, or delete their data.

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes said the overhaul of laws would lead to greater transparency over what happens to people’s information when they share it.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Mr Hawkes said personal information should be protected no matter where it is sent or stored, even outside the EU.

Under the legislation:

* A single set of rules on data protection will be introduced across the EU;

* People will have easier access to their own data and be able to transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily;

* A “right to be forgotten” will be introduced to help people better manage data protection risks online. People will also be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate grounds for a business to retain it;

* EU rules will be applied if personal data is handled abroad by companies active in the EU market and who offer their services to EU citizens — Google and Facebook, for example;

* Independent national data protection authorities will be strengthened and given the power to fine firms that violate EU rules up to €1m or 2% of their global annual turnover.

Mr Hawkes said people were increasingly concerned about what was happening to their data.

“In Ireland, 65% of social network users and 76% of online shoppers say they do not feel in complete control of their data. With social networking sites, cloud computing, location-based services, and smart cards, we leave digital traces, details of our life, with every move we make.

“In this brave new digital world we need a robust set of rules. The changes will give people more control over their personal data and make it easier to access, correct, or delete their data.

“The new rules will also make it clear that when you consent to the handling of your data, this must happen explicitly and knowingly. If data is stolen, lost, or hacked you must be informed about it as soon as possible and not only weeks after the incident.”

The reforms will give citizens greater powers to have their personal information deleted.

“The reform will put people in control of their personal data by reinforcing the ‘right to be forgotten’, meaning that data are dele-ted when someone no longer wants their data to be processed and when there are no legitimate grounds for businesses to retain the data,” said Mr Hawkes.

“After all, the personal data belongs to you and you should be able to dispose of it upon your request.”

He said the changes meant people could be confident about taking advantage of online shopping, new technologies, or sharing information with friends no matter where they live.

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