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Web Firms Face Too Many Privacy Rules, U.S. Official Says

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March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. and other U.S. Internet companies may be hampered by a multiplicity of data protection rules in Europe and beyond that are “potential barriers to the free flow of information,” a U.S. official said.

Daniel Weitzner, an Internet policy official in the U.S. Commerce Department, said regulators don’t always recognize companies’ efforts to set basic data protection standards that are adequate to stem abuses of privacy.

“It’s awfully difficult to adapt privacy practices for a hundred or more different” jurisdictions, Weitzner told reporters in Brussels the day after a meeting with Viviane Reding, the European Union’s justice commissioner. “That is a substantial barrier today.”

Google, based in Mountain View, California, and Palo Alto, California-based Facebook Inc. are among several Internet companies under scrutiny in the EU for possible privacy-rule breaches over their use of personal data.

The European Commission last year promised an overhaul of the EU’s nearly 16-year-old data-protection policies to address online advertising and social-networking sites. The law, which the regulator will formally propose later this year, may include stricter sanctions, such as criminal penalties, and the option for consumer groups to file lawsuits.

Cooperation between the EU and the U.S. may promote global standards for data privacy, Reding said in a speech today.

Planned changes to data protection rules in both regions “seem to be quite convergent,” she said. “Our cooperation has a good chance to be the first step towards the development and promotion of international legal standards,” Reding said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

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

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