Stronger Data Protection Will Fuel Internet Boom, Says EU Commissioner

Reding says strong data protection laws are essential to win back the trust of online consumers.

EU Vice President Viviane Reding says stricter Internet laws will help, not hinder, economic growth, adding: "We do not want the U.S. government listening to our phone calls and reading our emails."

Europe needs stronger data protection laws to win back the trust of citizens damaged by the revelations of the NSA's PRISM and other spying programs, argues Viviane Reding, the vice president of the European Union and European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

Speaking at DLDWomen, a conference bridging media, technology and women's issues, in Munich Monday, Reding called the revelations about the NSA, exposed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden “a wake-up call” that will spark even stronger regulations in Europe to protect personal data from government snooping.

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“We do not want the U.S. government to listen to every phone call we make and read every e-mail. Data protection in Europe is a fundamental right,” Reding said. “Maybe because of our history of dictatorships, this data protection, this protection of the individual has been inscribed in our fundamental laws and freedoms.”

Speaking to a crowd of digital industry executives, Reding argued that stronger data protection laws will actually strengthen the Internet industry by winning back the trust of consumers, making them again willing to share their valuable personal data.

“Strong rules allow trust and, in the Internet world, without trust you cannot go ahead,” she said. “Big data can be big business only if the trust of the consumers come back.”

Reding argued that women have been at the forefront in defending online privacy. She cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a strong supporter of stricter data protection laws in Europe, as one example.