Friday, September 14, 2007

Google calls for web privacy laws

Without global standards the health of the internet was at risk, the firm's privacy chief Peter Fleischer told a UN agency conference in Strasbourg.

He said that the rise of the net meant vast amounts of personal data was now regularly shipped around the globe.

That information often passed through countries with insufficient or no data protection laws, he said.

"Every time a person uses a credit card their information may cross six or seven national boundaries," Mr Fleischer said before the event.

Hostile past

Three quarters of countries have no privacy rules at all and among those that do, many were largely adopted before the rise of the internet, he said.

Europe, for example, has strict privacy regulations, but these rules were set out in 1995, largely before the rise of the commercial internet, he said.

In contrast, the United States has no country-wide privacy laws, instead leaving them to individual states or even industries to set up.

"The minority of the world's countries that have privacy regimes follow divergent models," a copy of his speech said. "Citizens lose out because they are unsure about what rights they have given the patchwork of competing regimes."

Google has previously come under repeated fire about its own privacy policies.

In June, rights group Privacy International rated the search giant as "hostile" to privacy in a report ranking web firms by how they handle personal data.

A month later, the firm said it would change its policies so that its cookies, tiny files stored on a computer when a user visits a website, would auto-delete two years after a user's last visit to its site. Previously they were set to delete in 2038.

Speaking at the Strasbourg Unesco conference, Mr Fleischer called for countries to adopt principles agreed by some Asia-Pacific nations.

The APEC guidelines have nine principles that aim to protect the individual and safeguard data collection.

They have been accepted by countries ranging from Australia to Vietnam.

"If privacy principles can be agreed in such divergent countries, then we think that is a model for the rest of the world," Mr Fleischer said before the speech.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk

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