At the last minute, the European Commission (EC) came to a compromise in its battle with the US over new data protection laws by delaying its enforcement - but most UK users are confused about the impact of the EC directive which was due to come into force last weekend.
The EC has agreed to postpone the implementation, which prohibits European companies from exchanging data with firms in countries whose laws do not adequately protect the online privacy of consumers - including the US.
The directive would have effectively prevented European Union members from swapping information with US companies. Officials from both sides met to discuss the impact on US trade and agreed to postpone the deadline until 15 December to allow further discussion.
Six EU nations have already passed laws based on this directive, one of which was the UK's Data Protection Act of 1998, but a Security Dynamics survey reveals that 85% of medium to large companies are not even aware the 1984 Data Protection Act was due to change.
"Companies without adequate protection are exposing themselves to serious breaches of the new act, which has more powerful and wide-ranging penalties than its predecessor," said Graham Welch, general manager of Security Dynamics. "IT security must protect data both inside and outside the company."
The 1998 Act includes harsher penalties for offenders while extending the protection of personal data to companies with business customers as well as consumers. All companies will have a duty to safeguard the personal data they hold and must take adequate security measures to ensure privacy.
- See Leader, page 36.
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