The European Union has taken a major step toward approving sweeping new data protection rules that would strengthen online privacy, streamline legislation between the 28 member states and boost police and security cooperation.

After four years of fierce political battles between industry and privacy groups, representatives of the European Parliament, the member states and the European Commission reached an agreement late Tuesday. Even though it still needs to be officially approved by the full plenary and member states, there is a consensus that a full deal will be sealed, officials said.

The rules would for the first time create a strong data protection law for Europe's 500 million citizens, replacing an outdated patchwork of national rules that only allow for tiny fines in cases of violation.