EU’s Kroes says she is worried by Google’s claims activists accounts’ were hacked

Thursday, January 14, 2010

EU Internet head backs Google threat to quit China

BRUSSELS — The woman to become EU’s top Internet official said Thursday that she backed Google Inc’s threat to quit China over the government’s net censorship.

“We have to have freedom of speech, we have to have the possibility to put things on the net,” Neelie Kroes said.

Google Inc. said Tuesday it would stop censoring search results in China and might shut down its China-based site, citing attempts to break into accounts on its Gmail service used by human rights activists.

Kroes said these allegations, if proved, were “particularly worrying as targeting of human rights activists in China and elsewhere” violated fundamental rights such as the freedom of opinion.

Kroes is currently the EU’s antitrust commissioner and will likely switch to her new post next month if she receives the backing of the European Parliament later this month. EU lawmakers quizzed her at a three-hour hearing on Thursday.

She called for technology companies to take privacy concerns seriously, saying failure to do so could prevent people from using the Internet frequently. Her predecessor threatened to regulate social networking sites like Facebook unless they tightened data storage and privacy standards.

“If Europeans fear for their privacy, worry about fraud or are concerned about threats to their children, then information and communication technology is held back,” Kroes said.

She also said governments should support open software standards to encourage their adoption — a possible swipe at Microsoft Corp., which was engaged in a row with other technology companies over a word processing standard it developed that rivaled another industry format.

Kroes also said she did not favor Google’s book scanning project from working closely with a similar EU-backed program, Europeana, saying it would be against competition rules and Europe needed to put online content in other languages than English.

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