EU considers stricter data breach notification rules

A new consultation investigates how quickly organizations should notify victimes of data breaches

The European Commission is examining whether additional rules are needed on personal data breach notification in the European Union.

Telecoms operators and Internet service providers hold a huge amount of data about their customers, including names, addresses and bank account details. The current ePrivacy Directive requires them to keep this data secure and notify individuals if such sensitive information is lost or stolen. Data breaches must also be reported to the relevant national authority.

However Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes announced on Thursday that she was opening a public consultation to see if more regulation was needed.

"The duty to notify data breaches is an important part of the new E.U. telecoms rules," she said. "But we need consistency across the E.U. so businesses don't have to deal with a complicated range of different national schemes. I want to provide a level playing field, with certainty for consumers and practical solutions for businesses."

In May the Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding suggested that the requirement for data breach notification should be extended to cover online banking, video games, shopping and social media.

"It is important that users are notified if someone has unlawful access to their data. A social network with more than 200 million users in the E.U. must stick to E.U. law, even if it is based in the United States and its data is stored in a so-called cloud," said Reding referring to Facebook.

She also stressed the importance of timely notification. "Seven days is much too long," she said, referring to Sony's delay in reporting a security breach involving 77 million PlayStation Network account holders in April this year.

The current consultation is open until Sept. 9. It is seeking input specifically on security techniques, how quickly organizations should notify victims, the means and content of notifications and what type of breaches meet the threshold for notification.

If the Commission decides to propose new notification rules, it would have to consult the European Network and Information Security Agency, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party and the European Data Protection Supervisor.

The consultation document is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/library/public_consult/data_breach/index_en.htm.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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