The European Commission (EC) is moving closer to a data protection regime that will force US tech giant such as Facebook and Google to abide by the EU's laws.
Justice commissioner Viviane Reding said meetings between EU politicians set out a clear agreement that foreign companies operating in Europe must be subject to Europe laws.
“Ministers agreed on the territorial scope of the data protection regulation. In simple words: EU data protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory – the European Single Market,” she said.
“This might strike you as self-evident. But let me tell you: far from it. It was one of the most contentious points when I presented the data protection reform in January 2012.”
The move would place far more pressure on US tech giants by enforcing legal requirements on them, and the data they collect, even if it is kept outside of the EU.
Reding added that plans for a "one-stop-shop" data protection regime that would provide a single point of contact for citizens to register data privacy complaints have also moved forward.
"This will cut red tape for companies and citizens and make sure data protection rules are applied consistently throughout the EU. Positions are coming closer to the model for such a system, with the general understanding that there should be a 'lead authority' which works closely with other concerned authorities," she said.
V3 contacted Google and Facebook for comment on the developments but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Reding also dismissed claims that a change in the make-up of the European Parliament, after the recent elections, would ultimately scupper changes to data protection legislation, arguing the EC's stance would continue regardless.
"We have an institutional continuity. Just because there is a change in commissioner doesn't mean there will be a change in policy. Everything a commissioner does is backed by the College," she said.
Reding also responded to the news from Vodafone that several government’s have unfettered access to its network.
"One year after the Snowden revelations, this shows again the scale of collection by governments of data being held by private companies," she said.
"Data access should always be framed by clear laws or judicial warrants. There should not be unregulated, direct and automatic mass access by law enforcement authorities to data of citizens held by private companies," she said.
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