Online giants Facebook, Microsoft and Google could be fined up to 1pc of their international revenues if they were ever to be found guilty of breaching tough new EU data protection rules which are expected to be issued in the next few days.
The new rules are expected to significantly bolster regulators’ powers in fighting data protection breaches.
The legislation could also give member states the power to fine companies found guilty of breaches up to 1pc of their global revenues.
According to Reuters, which has seen a draft of the new rules, individuals will be granted broad, new rights, including a "right to be forgotten" that will allow people to request their information be erased and not disseminated online.
New data portability rights will allow people to easily transfer their personal information between different companies and services.
The vice-president of the European Commission Viviane Reding, speaking at the DLD tech industry conference in Munich, said present EU rules on data protection and privacy are too cumbersome and that this fragmentation is actually costing businesses €2.3bn a year.
The new data protection rules are expected to be issued on 25 January, but the legislative process may mean that internet companies won’t be expected to comply until 2014 at the earliest.
Facebook data protection audit in Ireland
Just before Christmas, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner published the results of an audit of Facebook – the biggest investigation in the agency’s history – that took the best part of last year to complete.
Overall, the Data Protection Commission found Facebook’s privacy protection measures to be adequate but did recommend areas the social network needed to tighten up.
Facebook agreed to ‘best practice’ improvements to be implemented over the next six months, with a formal review happening in July 2012.