What with Facebook discovering that application developers had sold on users' data and, as we reported last week, Google being severely criticised by data protection agencies in several countries for not protecting data, privacy is once again taking centre stage. The European Commission in Brussels has announced its intention to put forward a new general data protection legal framework next year to strengthen EU data protection rules. One of the key goals is to:

“strengthen individuals’ rights so that the collection and use of personal data is limited to the minimum necessary. Individuals should also be clearly informed in a transparent way on how, why, by whom and for how long their data is collected and used”.

A quick look across Europe shows that different countries’ take on what is deemed to be private does vary quite significantly. Naomi Campbell's widely publicised case against The Mirror demonstrated there is no all-embracing action for "invasion of privacy" in the UK. Thus, if you don’t like Google Street View photographing your property or people zooming in through your windows then you might consider moving. Possible locations include Czech Republic where Google has been prevented from taking new photographs, or Greece or Austria which temporarily banned Google from taking images. Italy now insists that Google clearly identify its vehicles and advertise routes at least 3 days in advance and in Germany home owners can choose to opt out of the system. However, you can still request that Google take down the image of your property or car.

So much for harmonisation following the Data Protection Directive. Given the many differing approaches, a new attempt is to be welcomed. If you want to have your say, you can comment until 15 January 2011 through the Commission’s public consultation web site. In the meantime, if you are concerned about use of your images, you could do worse than move to Prague...