Privacy Overhaul Must Move at Full Speed, EU Justice Chief Says

The European Union’s justice commissioner said the bloc must “move full speed ahead” toward clinching a deal on revamped data-protection rules.

“We have lost too much time already,” said Viviane Reding, who proposed a complete overhaul of the EU’s 1995 data protection rules two years ago.

EU nations have dragged their heels over measures that could empower data watchdogs to wield fines as high as 100 million euros ($136 million) against global technology companies for privacy violations when they process EU citizens’ data. U.S. firms from Google Inc. to Facebook Inc. would be covered by the law.

Time is running out for an agreement before European Parliament elections in May. Reding said that Greece, which holds the six-month rotating EU presidency since this month, will push forward the debate.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive authority, “will support the Greek government’s ambitious objective to reach an agreement by the summer,” Reding said in prepared remarks for a Brussels speech today. “It is now up to member states to deliver the goods.”

EU leaders at a meeting in October bowed to U.K. demands for a slowdown in the adoption of the data-protection law to consider the effect of the legislation on businesses, dropping a 2014 deadline in favor of a pledge to introduce the plans in “timely fashion.”

Governments and members of the European Parliament must agree on the final version of the rules before they can take effect.

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