As the Internet reaches every corner of the world, many sites which collect consumer information touch upon the privacy of citizens who share information with websites which might be located outside of the country in which they reside. In such cases, local privacy laws which were originally implemented to protect consumers of a particular country must now be expanded to require the same level of privacy from companies operating from other parts of the world.

For example, Europe has decided to expand its Data Protection Directive to require websites such as Facebook and Google to abide by their privacy laws. Some of the practices which may be troublesome to Europe and must also be alarming to US citizens is the fact that once private information is collected from consumers, it is no longer controlled by consumers in some cases. For example, if you have a Facebook account, try to delete your account. I tried and could not delete my profile and all related information. I was only able to “deactivate” my account which means that although my information can not be viewed by others, it is still stored on a Faceboook server and vulnerable to theft, fraud and abuse. In fact, an Irish inquiry of Facebook into a similar complaint was also launched. Such problems have caused the European Union (EU) to reconsider its privacy laws which have not been updated since 1995 when the Internet was much younger and innocent than it is today.

The proposed EU revisions to its data protection law is likely to affect the amount of information websites can collect and provide more power to consumers for deleting and removing their private information at their discretion. Whether EU will be able to require tougher privacy practices from US companies and others remains to be seen although US is a signatory to the Safe Harbor Agreement whereby the US promised in 2000 to handle EU consumer information in accordance with EU privacy laws.

To learn more about social networking risks, read this article about online profile risks.

Until next time, be identity safe,
Henry Bagdasarian
Identity Management Institute

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