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EU Stands Up for "Right to be Forgotten Online"

What happened?

The European Union outlined proposals for changes to the 1995 Europe-wide data protection law, aimed at creating a single set of rules for all EU countries. Among the suggested changes is the "right to be forgotten online", which would let you force companies to delete personal data and information if there was no longer any reason for them to hold onto it. Online companies will also have to make it easier for users to take their data and move it to a different service.

Other changes include rules requiring companies to notify national data protection authorities of serious data breaches.

How will it affect you?

In theory, the "right to be forgotten" will give you more power over your data, handing ownership of such information back to you. For example, if you bought an item from an online store, but don't plan to do so again, you could ask the company to delete your delivery and email addresses and hence giving you easy way to request removing personal information from the internet. Stores want to keep these details so they can send you marketing information.

Whether it will work remains to be seen. The rules must pass the EU parliament and be approved by member states. After that, the regulations will take two years to come into force.

It's worth noting, however, that strict EU rules requiring websites to tell you when tracking cookies are dropped on your computers have gone largely ignored so far in the UK and other European countries. This new proposal could suffer the same fate, becoming another well-meaning law that is largely ignored by users who, in the majority, seem happy to hand over their personal information to the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook.

What do we think?

It's good to see the EU taking a firm stand on data protection and siding with consumers, while at the same time looking to cut red tape for businesses. However, online companies are already complaining that the "right to be forgotten" will be impossible to manage. It appears much work needs to be done to get the balance right.