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EU damns scanners, Facebook, MySpace and Phorm

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Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, has promised tough new laws to curb privacy-breaching technology like body scanners and has also warned the social networking industry that it needs to do more to protect children using its services.

In a speech to mark Data Protection Day Reding said she was studying more than 160 responses to proposed changes to data protection law and said most favoured stronger rules.

She said there needed to be clarity as to how key principles like consent and transparency work in practice.

That data was safe no matter where the data controller was located.

There should be promotion of 'privacy by design'.

There should be stronger enforcement.

The basic principles of data protection should cover all areas of European life including police and judicial and dealings with countries outside the EU.

Reding named Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and warned that children's profiles on such sites should be private by default. She will report back on progress working with companies on 9 February.

She is also concerned about behavioural advertising - the Commission has launched an infringement procedure against the British government's response to Phorm. She said: "For me it is clear that without the prior informed consent of citizens their data cannot be used."

On body scanners - which are being rushed into British airports today in response to the pants-bomber - Reding was clear in her disapproval.

Reding said: "This leads me to body scanners. I am convinced that body scanners have a considerable privacy-invasive potential. Their usefulness is still to be proven. Their impact on health has not yet been fully assessed. Therefore I cannot imagine this privacy-intrusive technique being imposed on us without full consideration of its impact."

She was equally damning about the wholesale export of financial data to the US. She said she remained to be convinced: "that all these SWIFT transfers are necessary, proportionate and effective to fight terrorism."

She promised to look closely at the issue in the coming weeks.

Finally Reding said she wanted to ensure that: "our EU legislation and international agreements are based on evidence rather than on emotional responses to the latest scare."

The full speech is here.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “We understand the concerns expressed about privacy in relation to the deployment of body scanners. It is vital that staff are properly trained and we are currently developing a code of practice to ensure these concerns are properly taken into account.

Existing safeguards also mean those operating scanners are separated from the device, so unable to see the person to whom the image relates, and these anonymous images are deleted immediately.”®

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