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EU justice officials reserved over data collection proposal

BERLIN — EU justice ministers reacted coolly on Friday to a plan that would give consumers the ability to expunge the personal details Internet businesses have collected on them, essentially allowing individuals to block most kinds of online ads.

During an informal meeting in Dublin, the ministers expressed reservations about elements of the proposal, which would impose new limits on data collection and profiling and give national regulators the ability to levy hefty fines equal to 2 percent of sales on companies that failed to comply.

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Alan Shatter, the Irish justice minister who chaired the closed-door meeting, said the ministers were concerned that the measures would stymie the Internet’s development by hampering the targeted advertising that makes possible most free services.

‘‘An overall conclusion is that there is widespread acceptance of the need for a uniform approach to regulation,’’ Shatter said at a news conference.

Ireland holds the European Union’s rotating presidency through June, and Shatter is seeking an agreement among justice ministers on the proposal. The ministers must approve the plan before a proposal is put to the European Parliament.

Europe last updated its primary data protection laws in 1995, when the Internet was in its infancy and the concept of mining consumer data did not yet exist. The legislative effort to produce an updated law is expected to continue into 2014.

Shatter described the discussions with ministers as ‘‘very interesting and considered’’ but noted that the conclusion of the group, at least initially, was that updated EU data protection laws must be ‘‘balanced and proportionate’’ and not stifle businesses.

The comments by the ministers, their first public statements on the proposal, suggest that privacy advocates have a long road ahead. Viviane Reding, the European justice commissioner who initially proposed the changes last year, said much work still needed to be done. She said enhanced consumer protections would encourage more online commerce, which in turn would bolster the European economy.

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