As Toby Vogel notes in “Facing up to a digital world” (special report on data privacy, 6-12 May), the internet was just emerging as a global, commercial force when the European Union adopted its first data protection directive in 1995.
Since then, the internet has evolved into an amazing platform for innovation, and an increasingly critical means by which individuals, organisations and governments communicate and collaborate. Ensuring that the internet continues to grow and evolve in these roles will require both safeguards for online privacy and strong protections against crime. The Internet Society believes these interests are mutually compatible, and that both can be advanced through a few guiding principles.
First, as the European Commission considers how to update the data-protection directive, a primary focus should be on improving the application of existing laws, including their application to activities that involve the internet, rather than rushing into new legislation that singles out online behaviour.
Second, confidence in the internet as a means for sharing information is critical to its continued growth. The Commission should therefore consider what specifically might be done to provide users with transparency and control over how their information is used online. The global internet community is working to develop the technical foundations for these capabilities, but trust is both a technical and a social issue, and successful remedies must include both online and offline solutions.
As Vogel notes in his article, this is the right time to address this issue, which is critical to the future of the internet.
European Regional Bureau
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