EU Issues Guidance on Privacy Notices

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The European Union's committee of data privacy commissioners adopted a plan to create corporate privacy notices that are easy for consumers to understand and to compare with the notices of other companies, it was announced yesterday.

The approach calls for companies throughout Europe to use "very short," "condensed" or "complete" privacy notices in their literature. The ruling is not mandatory, but the goal is for all companies in Europe to use the same format. Consumers long have complained that privacy notices are too long and difficult to decipher.

The committee adopted the joint report on privacy notices at its Nov. 25-26 meetings, and it is now published on the EU Data Protection Web site.

The committee said its action does not reduce the information given to consumers in privacy notices. It will increase transparency by allowing notices to be given in a more easily understandable format.

"This is a significant step in creating a common, worldwide platform for privacy notices," said Martin Abrams, executive director for the Center for Information Policy Leadership at law firm Hunton & Williams, Richmond, VA.

Business leaders hailed the news.

"This regulatory guidance enables us to create user-friendly notices," said Peter Fleischer, Microsoft's European public policy leader. "Consumers want privacy notices that are short and easy to read."

Lucy Hodgson of Procter & Gamble thinks these notices will help her company become even more consumer-driven.

"The short notice allows us to tell consumers about our data collection while maintaining the integrity of our consumer communication," she said.

Procter & Gamble already has a condensed privacy notice on its Web site.

"There is still a great deal of work to be done," Abrams said. "Business needs to embrace this standard and work with the data protection commissioners to develop best practice examples. Consumer advocates need to be involved in this process as well."

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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