New rules will affect the EU's entire 500 million population -- the same number as Facebook's free subscriber list -- when formal legislative proposals emerge from a two-month public consultation launched by Reding in Brussels.

"The protection of personal data is a fundamental right," said the Luxembourg commissioner, who recently took on President Nicolas Sarkozy's France over Roma rights.

Her services want people to reclaim ownership of their digital imprint, including photographs, in an age when many users complain it is virtually impossible to avoid a permanent trace being logged on mainframe computer servers the world over.

"People should be able to give their informed consent to the processing of their personal data, for example when surfing online, and should have the 'right to be forgotten' when their data is no longer needed or they want their data to be deleted," the commission said.

There are growing fears about Facebook's influence on people's careers and social and private lives, including failed job interviews and divorces, with cases of "Facebook suicide" increasing.

Source: AFP Global Edition