The European Union's new data protection laws came into effect on Friday, with Brussels saying the changes will protect consumers from being like "people naked in an aquarium".

Even though the rules were officially adopted two years ago, with a grace period until now to adapt to them, companies have been slow to act, resulting in a last-minute scramble this week.

Britain's data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), said that its site had experienced "a few interruptions" as the deadline loomed, but said that "everything is working now".

Brussels insists that the laws will become a global benchmark for the protection of people's online information, particularly in the wake of the Facebook data harvesting scandal.

"The new rules will put the Europeans back in control of their data," said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova.

"When it comes to personal data today, people are naked in an aquarium."

Companies can be fined up to 20 million euros ($24 million) or four percent of annual global turnover for breaching the strict new data rules for the EU, a market of 500 million people.