U.K. Proposes Law Letting Citizens Erase Personal Data on Web

The devil’s bargain underlying the internet economy is that people get free usage of websites such as Google and Facebook in exchange for letting companies collect all sorts of personal data that can be used to sell advertising and other services.

But in recent years European governments have pushed back, arguing the balance of the trade has gotten overly skewed in favor of giant technology companies.

In the latest example, the U.K. is proposing a new privacy law that aims to make it easier for citizens to erase personal data and old pictures from Facebook Inc., Google and other internet sites. The ruling Conservative Party, in its campaign platform this year, pledged to give people more control of their online personal information.

The proposed law, which needs approval from Parliament, would give people stronger rights to seek the removal of online browsing data, according to a document released Monday by the U.K. Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Parents also would be given more authority to control what data is collected about their children. Companies would be required to end the practice of collecting people’s online data by default unless a user opts out.

The U.K. has been a less antagonistic regulator of internet companies than governments such as Spain and France. A landmark European Union court decision in 2014 determined people have a so-called right to be forgotten when internet companies post results that are outdated or irrelevant. A separate data-protection law to be implemented next year within the EU adds additional privacy standards.

‘More Control’

With the U.K. scheduled to leave the EU in early 2019, the new proposal will bring its data-privacy regulations more in line with other countries in the region.

“It will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit,” Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital, said in a statement. The Culture Department didn’t specify a timeline for its passage through Parliament.

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