UK may fine online operators that block attempts to close accounts

The United Kingdom is said to be reviewing allegations regarding possible attempts by online companies to block the closing of personal accounts and the elimination of individual data from their files. If they are found guilty, the companies may be fined. The controversy emerged after Internet users communicated the situation to a London-based privacy organization, which in turn decided to study the matter. Privacy International claims that obstructing deletion of an account violates the UK’s Data Protection Act. During its review, Privacy International claims to have found that companies such as auction site Ebay and online shopping site Amazon do not readily provide a way to delete a personal account from their files. The organization also claims that these companies share information on individuals with third parties. Ebay has said that it provides instructions on deletion of accounts and does not block the process. Amazon denies sharing information with third parties. Privacy International, meanwhile, explains that companies struggle to maintain clients to preserve a strong market capitalization. The practice of retaining information on users is not new. Search engines AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo admit they have the ability to do so. Some of these companies provide an easy option to opt out of the practice and others allegedly do not. Some will not disclose the information unless it is to fight criminal activity, while others such as AOL got in trouble recently for releasing search data, which ended posted online. Companies fail to define the duration of the retention period. However, MSN says it will not retain data in violation of laws such as the European Union’s data retention policies.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

What prompted the organization to address this topic? What did it found in its study?
What are companies saying about the deletion of personal data from their files?
What kind of data do companies reportedly retain?
How long has this practice been going on?

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