EU looks to technology to protect privacy

Bloc to examine use of privacy enhancing technologies to battle identity theft and surveillance, the commission has said.

The European Commission has set out plans to examine the use of Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) to counteract identity theft, discriminatory profiling and surveillance.

The commission will promote the research and development of PETs, run large-scale pilots in industry and public sectors, and create an European Union-wide privacy seal system.

PETs are a way of designing ICT systems to collect and hold the least amount of personal data. They include systems such as encryption tools and automatic anonymisation, which would strip personal details from data after a certain period of time.

Commission vice-president Franco Frattini said the plan will encourage the use of systems which minimise the collection and use of personal data, "to ensure that breaches of the data protection rules and violations of individual's rights are not only something forbidden and subject to sanctions under the existing legal provisions, but also technically more difficult".

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The technology will benefit businesses as well as consumers, as increased trust will encourage confidence in online spending, said the EU's Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding.

"Online services provide a lot of benefits and convenience to citizens and huge competitive advantages to European businesses," said Reding in a statement. "Yet for such services to enjoy large scale growth and so boost Europe's economy, people must have sufficient confidence that their personal privacy and legitimate business interests are being properly safeguarded".

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