EU industry chiefs meet to decide citizens' online privacy rights

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More than 600 delegates from around Europe will attend an internet conference in Strasbourg next week to discuss the rights of EU citizens to privacy and free expression.

The European Dialogue on Internet Governance will commence on 12 June and will include stakeholders in industry, governments, academia and civil society, including the federal minister for economic affairs and energy Fadi Chehade.

The main issues discussed will be focused around the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and its future within Europe, given that it administers the allocation of names and numbers on the internet.

A survey conducted in Germany found that 40 per cent of internet users aged 18 to 65 wished for the EU to take a larger role in the governance of the internet and their security online. More than a third (35 per cent) responded that they would prefer more international organisations like the United Nations to be more involved too.

The EU is looking at increasing the powers of data-protection watchdogs - giving them the ability to hand out hefty fines for violations. Talks on a new data-protection package "have clearly moved from dormant to dynamic," according to EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding.

"Data-protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory," she added. "I want to make it very clear that exemtpions [will be] exceptional."

Ministers have been divided on the topic, though, with France opposed to a fix-all approach that would allow one regulator to control all decisions on privacy on the continent.

The new "right to be forgotten" legislation passed in the EU will bound to be a hot topic at the meeting next week. Due to the ruling, Google, the company at the heart of the saga, will be obliged to remove the details of any person who requests them to do so.

Within 24 hours of Google's dedicated website for the service launching it received 12,000 "forget me" requests, rising to 41,000 in the first four days. Almost a third of the accusations are related to fraud, 12 per cent to child pornography and 20 to serious and violent crime.

Following the flood of requests received by Google, Professor Luciano Floridi, tasked with determining how Google can comply, said: "People would be screaming if a powerful company suddenly decided what information could be seen by what people, when and where," he said.

"That is the consequence of this decision. A private company now has to decide what is in the public interest."

Companies based outside of the European Union, minsters have ruled, need to abide by the bloc's new rules or face losing their business.