EU Data-Privacy Law Overhaul Backed by Telecom Industry

Reform of the European Union’s almost 18-year-old data-protection rules to ensure they apply to all companies in the EU market equally has the backing of the bloc’s largest telecom industry group.

“The data-protection regulation is a major move toward establishing a truly level playing field, allowing all players in the EU to compete on equal footing,” said Luigi Gambardella, chairman of the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association.

The industry group, with members including Deutsche Telekom AG, Eircom Group Ltd. and Telefonica SA, put out a joint statement with EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding today.

Reding in January 2012 presented plans to entirely reform the data-protection rules that apply to the bloc’s 27 member nations. The draft rules, which are being studied and need the backing by EU lawmakers and ministers, would apply to any company active in Europe, including U.S. companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., Reding said in 2011.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, and Facebook are among several U.S. Internet companies that have faced scrutiny in the EU for possible privacy-rule violations over their use of personal data.

Data-protection officials from 30 European countries have pushed Google, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. to limit the amount of time they store search records. The same group has criticized Facebook for policy changes that could have harmed users’ privacy rights.

“Our proposed rules are creating a level-playing field: non-EU companies, when offering services to EU consumers, will have to apply the same rules and adhere to the same levels of protection of personal data,” Reding said in the same statement. “If companies outside the EU want to operate on the European market then they have to play by the European rules.”

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