Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009 15:16 UK

Call for a watch on the watchers

Hard drive, Eyewire
The Euro-MPs want more done to protect private data

Organisations tracking net use should themselves be monitored, say MEPs.

The Euro-MPs overwhelmingly backed a statement which called on governments to list internet watching organisations and report on what they do.

The reports would name and shame organisations carrying out illegal or disproportionate amounts of surveillance.

The MEPs want governments to rein in industry and criminal attempts to view digital communications.

The statement backed by the Euro-MPs drew attention to the risks citizens face as their web browsing habits are subject to greater surveillance by either companies or governments.

It recommended a recognition of the "danger of certain forms of internet surveillance and control aimed also at tracking every 'digital' step of an individual, with the aim of providing a profile of the user and of assigning 'scores'."

Those that overstep the permissions users grant, or break laws governing what can be done with personal data, should suffer penalties "proportionate to the infringements committed" said the politicians.

The MEPs also want greater attention paid to the consent agreements users have to click through before using websites. Often these lead to people relinquishing control over their private information, warned the statement.

Websites should also be scrutinised to ensure that requests to delete personal data are carried out thoroughly.

It also wanted governments to draw up well-defined lists of the circumstances in which websites will be asked to hand over personal data to law enforcement organisations.

The statement declared: "the overriding interest of protecting citizens' fundamental rights should determine the limits and precise circumstances under which such technologies may be used by public authorities or companies".

Finally, the text called on governments to do more to protect children from online abuse. It also wants the European Commission to combat hi-tech crime and ID theft.

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