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Global web privacy rules needed in 5 years Google

Reuters | September 24, 2007
David Ljunggren

National regulators need to agree on a basic set of global privacy protections for the Internet within the next five years, a senior official with web searcher Google said on Monday.

Peter Fleischer, the firm's global privacy counsel, said three quarters of countries had no Internet privacy standards at a time when the amount of sensitive personal and financial data on the Web was soaring.

Google -- itself criticized for the threat it poses to personal privacy -- says the firm's business agenda, the world economy and the Internet could suffer unless more is done to ensure basic privacy on the Web.

"What we're saying is that the Internet is making this particularly urgent and that the Internet develops at a different speed than the speed at which traditional lawmaking and policy-making discussions take place," Fleischer said.

"I think this is something that needs to happen within five years. That's just us saying what we think is realistic as an urgent action," he told Reuters in an interview.

Google, unhappy with what it calls a patchwork of conflicting privacy rules in some countries and a complete lack in many others, is pressing for action amid criticism about the enormous access to personal information on the Web.

"I think everyone has acknowledged that the status quo is not good enough any more," said Fleischer.

Google wants countries to adopt privacy principles agreed by several Asia-Pacific countries. Fleischer said some backed this idea while others wanted to focus on what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is doing.

"That's fine. The important thing from Google's perspective is that there is a focus and debate around moving forward on global privacy standards," he said.

"If we can ... improve the standards in three quarters of the countries in the world, regardless of which model they follow, that is a huge step forward."

He said perfect harmonization was unlikely, but the basic model could combine laws, codes of conduct and best practices.

Even if nations did not agree on standards within five years, Google would consider it progress if some countries without Internet privacy rules took action, said Fleischer.

"We're playing a very long game here. We believe we're working for the success of Google services over a very long period of time ... and one of the things that everybody needs to improve is an understanding of privacy," he said.

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