Canadian, German data protection watchdogs join forces

Coordination between agencies may ensure better privacy protection

The German and Canadian data protection commissioners signed an agreement on Monday that aims to ensure people's digital privacy will be better protected if data travels across borders via the Web, the authorities announced. International cooperation could help put companies like Facebook and Google on a privacy leash.

Both countries will inform each other about important events and complaints and will cooperate on specific cases, the authorities said in a news release.

Although there have not yet been cases where the data protection authorities might have wanted to work together, Peter Schaar, the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said international cooperation is needed in cases dealing with companies like Google and Facebook.

For example, Tuesday the French data protection authority CNIL will reveal the results into its investigation of Google's recent changes to privacy settings, Schaar said. This is an E.U.-wide privacy investigation that has been led by the French but is a collaboration between European privacy watchdogs, he said.

Given the controversy over how Google's Street View cars gathered personal data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, it would have been convenient to exchange information with other countries beyond the E.U., he said. "We need to exchange information and coordinate enforcement," Schaar added.

The Canadian government also highlighted the importance of coordinated privacy protection in the age of the Web. "Since personal data can be transferred to other countries and parts of the world with one mouse click, data protection agencies have to cooperate better internationally," said the Canadian data protection authority in a statement.

Both data protection agencies are striving to expand their coordination with counterpart agencies around the world, they said. At the 34th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners at the end of October in Uruguay, Canada and Germany plan to discuss extending their cooperative agreement to more countries.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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