EU: .Net Passport breaks data privacy rules?

The European Union is examining charges that Microsoft's .Net Passport system breaks EU rules on data privacy, a European Commission official said Tuesday.

The official said he expected member states to make a formal announcement after July 1. The official was commenting after Microsoft called a news conference to deny the Commission or any EU state was formally investigating the .Net Passport system about collecting personal data from Internet users.

"Not one of the 15 member states or the European Commission is investigating Passport," Peter Fleischer, senior attorney for law and corporate affairs at Microsoft, told reporters.

He was referring to reports last month that the EU was looking into whether the system complied with strict EU rules on data protection. The Commission official confirmed that no formal investigation had started but suggested action may be in the pipeline.

"It is correct to say there is no formal investigation at the moment," he said. "But the issue is under consideration and we are hoping for some kind of announcement from the member states after July 1."

EU national privacy controllers, the officials charged with monitoring compliance with EU privacy laws, are due to meet on July 1, the official added.

Under EU data privacy rules, customers' personal data can only be used by a company or passed on to others with prior consent from the individual. While the Commission has authority to help member states interpret EU law, legal action would be launched by the individual member states. Privacy groups and their allies argue that Microsoft's free .Net Passport service collects personal information while consumers are making purchases, playing games or doing bank transactions online.

News source: c|net

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