Facebook: ‘Data laws could stifle innovation’

Facebook has warned that European lawmakers risk making social networks “unexciting” places to visit by over-prescriptive data protection laws that could stifle innovation.

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Speaking at an event in London earlier this week, Facebook’s UK public policy director Simon Milner said that some of the proposals in the European Commission’s data protection directive are at odds with its innovation plans.

Milner questioned whether measures that would require companies to gain explicit consent to process personal data would make social networks, - “an environment where people want to share” - “unexciting”.

He also took aim at the “right to be forgotten” proposal that allows consumers to insist that data collected online is deleted unless a company can demonstrate that there is legitimate reason to keep it.

“It is right that someone can delete what they have posted but should not be able to delete what someone has posted about you,” he added.

Despite such concerns, Milner said that some of the proposals were worthwhile, such as the need for a single European-wide data protection authority and the directive’s “joint focus on privacy and innovation”.

He also acknowledged that there was a need to modernise data protection laws for the online age.

Facebook is taking part in joint lobbying efforts with the Internet Advertising Bureau and Direct Marketing Association to press for changes.

The directive has been passed to the European Parliament and then the Council of Ministers for discussion.

It will be at least until 2014 before any changes to UK law. Final regulation will take effect two years after being adopted.

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