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Internet Tracking May Threaten Privacy Rights, EU’s Reding Says

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- European Union regulators are concerned individual privacy rights are threatened by mobile phone and computer products that monitor online activities.

“I am concerned about the use of highly privacy-intrusive tracking technologies,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a speech in Brussels today. “Mobile phones and computers have become tracking devices. We no longer range unseen across the net.”

Reding proposed in November an overhaul of the 27-nation region’s almost 16-year-old data protection rules to adapt them to online advertising and social-networking sites such as Facebook Inc. The new law, which the commission may propose later this year, may include stricter sanctions, such as criminal penalties, and the possibility for consumer groups to file lawsuits.

Tracking technologies have “serious consequences” for people and can lead to criminal penalties for people or cause them to being blocked or disconnected from the Internet in an “unauthorized” manner, said the EU commissioner today.

Reding, 59, said “recent events” in Egypt have shown governments can “manipulate and censor the Internet to crush dissent,” and she urged nations to let journalists use the Internet to “speak out” and allow people share their thoughts and feelings.

“The Internet cannot be used as a tool of oppression,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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