The European Commission plans to negotiate guidelines on privacy of personal data within the Council of Europe, which includes non-EU countries.
Although Council guidelines would be non-binding, the EC would require its member countries to apply them to business and other data users.
In a statement, the EC said that the Commissioner for the internal market, Mario Monti, "stresses the seriousness of the social and economic implications of the proposal and gives his assurance that the Commission will see to it that it is compatible with EU directives and actively promotes the protection of privacy."
The Commission will pay particular attention to specific risks of processing personal data on the Internet, and to practical enforcement measures. It will recommend that personal data should be used as little as possible.
Other issues the EC intends to examine are disclosure of personal data for national security or crime prevention; for direct marketing; and cross-border data flows.
A spokeswoman said the Commission wants to ensure the Council of Europe guidelines follow the high standards already taken up by the EU in two data privacy directives, which come into force October this year.
Adoption of these high level norms will also help countries outside the EU meet the requirement under the EU directives that personal data can only be transferred to countries with equivalent protection, she said.
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