Justice, fundamental rights and citizenship commissioner Viviane Reding has said that laws adopted by the European Union's 27 member states need to be amended so that they are closer to each other and to EU privacy directives.
Addressing the Article 29 Working Party, a committee comprising data protection watchdogs from EU members, Reding stated that current data protection law was not fulfilling its mandate.
"One of the main concerns expressed by businesses in the recent consultations is the lack of harmonisation and the differences in national measures and practices around implementing our 1995 [Data Protection] Directive," said Reding. "It is therefore clear that we need to provide further harmonisation and approximation of data protection rules at EU level.
"I believe we need to strengthen individuals' rights by ensuring that they enjoy a high level of protection and are able to maintain control over their data. This is particularly important in the online environment, where privacy policies are often unclear, non-transparent and not always in full compliance with existing rules.
"Individuals need to be well and clearly informed, in a transparent way, by data controllers – be it services providers, search engines or others – about how and by whom their data is collected and processed. They need to know what their rights are if they want to access, rectify or delete their data. And they should be able to actually exercise these rights without excessive constraints. "
Reding continued to state that EU countries needed to do more to share data when dealing with one another, and internationally.
"I intend to improve, strengthen and streamline the current procedures for international data transfers, including in the areas of police co-operation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters," she said.
Reding also intends to create an "umbrella" data protection agreement with the US, allowing greater volumes of personal data to be shared but still protected to a standard acceptable to the EU.
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