Europe has been behind in the area of data protection and regulation for too long and it is time it caught up, according to the Minister of State responsible for Data Protection.

Dara Murphy said Europe can provide global leadership and needs to work with partners like the US to find a balance on competing rights.

Addressing a data protection conference in Dublin organised by Digital Rights Ireland, Mr Murphy outlined the proposed new EU data protection regulations, which he said aim to give citizens greater control over their own data.

With the current European rules on privacy dating back to the mid-1990s, modern laws have been absent for too long, he said.

Mr Murphy predicted that the new rules, when finally agreed, would generate far greater confidence in companies.

He warned organisations, including government and companies, need to start putting people in place to deal with the new regulations before they are finalised.

He also said it was very important that Ireland continues to show leadership in the area.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Minister Murphy strongly rejected claims that Ireland is a soft touch on data protection.

He pointed to the extra resources recently allocated by the Government to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and his own appointment as minister with special responsibility for the area.