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The BBC's James Rodgers in Brussels
"Internet users are paying a huge price in extra-connection time"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 February, 2001, 15:31 GMT
EU slams internet 'junk mail'
Easy Internet cafe in London
Protecting your privacy online is not easy
Internet users world-wide are paying an extra $9.4 bn a year in connection costs to receive "junk" email, according to a study carried out for the European Commission.

The Commission warned that unless internet consumers feel their privacy is adequately protected, the future of online services could be in doubt.

It said information from web site transactions and visits was being sold for large sums of money, but many internet users were unaware of how data collected from them was being used.


Many individual subscribers are unaware of the scale and implications of these developments

Frits Bolkestein, EU Commissioner

The Commission - the European Union's executive body - said it wants to encourage the development of internet services, while ensuring individual privacy rights are protected.

The Internal Market Commissioner, Frits Bolkestein, said: "current technology allows a single cyber-marketing company to send half a billion personalised ad mails via the world-wide web every day."

But "many individual subscribers are unaware of the scale and implications of these developments," he said.

The Commission said it had launched the study as part of an ongoing effort "to ensure that the development of the Internet and e-commerce does not undermine Europe's rules on internet privacy and data protection."

In a statement, it said it was up to internet companies to answer such concerns.

"Unless consumers feel their privacy is adequately protected, the online services that are so important to wealth and job creation in Europe are unlikely to flourish."

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See also:

26 Jan 01 | Business
Companies 'flouting' web privacy
12 Mar 00 | Talking Point
Is it time for a privacy law?
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