UK data protection laws inadequate - EU

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission on Thursday moved a step closer to taking Britain to court for failing to provide its citizens with adequate privacy and personal data protection when using electronic communications.

The European Union’s executive said it had begun a second phase of legal action to force the government to bring its data protection framework into line with EU rules.

The Commission said Britain had failed to comply with EU rules protecting the confidentiality of communications such as emails and internet surfing, citing shortcomings in Britain’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) of 2000.

The Commission began legal action after an inquiry into how the country had responded to people’s complaints about the use of targeted advertising by internet service providers.

“People’s privacy and the integrity of their personal data ... is a fundamental right, protected by European law. That is why the Commission is vigilant in ensuring that EU rules and rights are put in place,” EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

She said the government should change its laws to ensure citizens benefited from the safeguards set out in the EU’s confidentiality of electronic communications laws.

The Commission said one of the problems was the absence of an independent national authority to supervise interception of communications. Such an authority is required under EU laws.

It also said the act did not comply with EU rules defining consent.

The Commission said it would send the government a “reasoned opinion” letter, to which it has two months to reply. If the Commission is not satisfied by the response, it can take the matter to the EU court, which could force a change in the law.

Reporting by Bate Felix; editing by Erik Kirschbaum