Kuneva warns: the market depends on regulators, not businesses

Jeremy Phillips

Earlier this week the European Commission published a speech by European Commissioner for consumer affairs Meglena Kuneva which touched on data protection. She warned a meeting of industry representatives about popular practices such as online data collection and consumer targeting and profiling. 

EU officials are concerned by the growing use of “deep-packet inspection” technologies that allow broadband providers to track online activity, letting websites monitor browsing history patterns. While advertising supported many internet services and the retention of data that tracked customers’ preferences was useful for marketing purposes, the Commissioner said that privacy policies about data collection activities needed to be both transparent and fair, with consumers being better able to control how and when data was being collected and for what purpose. 
Warning that Europe could not afford any “foot-dragging” in this area, she emphasised that if industry failed to respond to consumers’ concerns, the EC would introduce regulation to control the activities of online advertisers and website operators, concluding:
“Today I want to send one very clear message to those involved in all aspects of the digital world – Consumer rights must adapt to technology, not be crushed by it. The current situation with regard to privacy, profiling and targeting is not satisfactory.

The central issue is to transpose the principles of consumer policy to this new technological reality so that we maintain our traditional boundaries of what is right and what is not, what damages people and markets and what favours and nurtures them.

This will involve consumers, business and regulators. But it is regulators that bear the ultimate responsibility of ensuring markets work well and develop their greatest potential with the interest of citizens at heart. I want to send a warning signal today that we cannot afford foot dragging in this area. If we fail to see an adequate response to consumers concerns on the issue of data collection and profiling, as a regulator, we will not shy away from our duties nor wait for a cataclysm to wake us up”.

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