A sampling of privacy news from Data Privacy Day

Whether it’s coincidence or intentional, with January 28 being Data Privacy Day in the U.S. and Data Protection Day in Europe, there was a lot going on in information privacy. The single most consistent focus of concern appears to be Facebook, a company mentioned by name by both European Commissioners and FTC Commissioners, and against which Canada’s privacy commissioner launched a new investigation this week.

  • During her keynote speech at Data Protection Day, European Commissioner for Information and Society Viviane Reding called for a new approach of “privacy by design,” in which organizations “to improve the protection of privacy and personal data from the very beginning of the development cycle.” Reding also indicated that the European Commission would plan to move forward with a proposal on ways to reform the General Data Protection Directive to strengthen data protection laws and make them more consistent across Europe.
  • The European Commission also formally initiated legal action against Italy for violating EU privacy rules, specifically the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, stemming from a practice where information taken from public directories is being used to create telemarketing databases, without the consent of the individuals whose information is being aggregated and used for this purpose.
  • The Federal Trade Commission held its second of three planned round table discussions on Exploring Privacy in California, where FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour also advocated privacy by design, particularly in the context of online privacy protections. Panelists at the event raised concerns about the apparent ease with which online data can be matched, so that supposedly anonymous data can be accurately associated with individuals.
  • As reported by eSecurity Planet, U.S. Representative Rick Boucher, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, said publicly at a Congressional Internet Caucus event on Wednesday that he is nearly finished drafting new online privacy legislation, to address data collection and consumer protection practices, particularly for online marketing such as targeted advertising.