Sunday

26th May 2019

Focus

EU agrees data protection regime, details to follow

  • 'These new pan-European rules are good for citizens and good for businesses,' says the EU commission (Photo: chiara marra)

Members of the European Parliament and national governments agreed on Tuesday (15 December) how to best protect European citizens' personal information online.

Europeans will have the right to object to being targeted by online advertisers, to carry their data from one service to another, and to have personal data deleted if they want to.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The new data protection rules have been under discussion for almost four years since the European Commission proposed them in January 2012. The reform aims to update rules which stem from as far back as 1995.

On Tuesday evening, MEPs and member states reached a compromise deal in a meeting behind closed doors, mediated by the European Commission.

As of Wednesday morning, the rules themselves had not yet been made public - there are only jubilant press releases from the three EU institutions.

“It is a fundamental agreement with significant consequences,” said Felix Braz, justice minister for Luxembourg, which had negotiated on behalf of the member states.

“This reform not only strengthens the rights of citizens, but also adapts the rules to the digital age for companies, whilst reducing the administrative burden,” added Braz.

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said the new rules are “fit for the digital age” and that there was no winner or loser.

“These new pan-European rules are good for citizens and good for businesses,” noted Jourova.

For his part, MEP Jan Phillipp Albrecht, who spoke on behalf of parliament, said the compromise was “a major step forward for consumer protection and competition.”

But much will rely on details of the rules.

For example, the commission's press release said they will give Europeans “a right to data portability: it will be easier to transfer your personal data between service providers."

But how this will work in practice is unclear.

Does it mean that all messages sent via one application, must be allowed to be transferred to another one? That may require significant technical adjustments from most digital services.

The commission also noted there would be a “clarified” right to be forgotten - the idea that personal data can be deleted when requested.

Since a 2014 ruling by the EU's Court of Justice, there has been a de facto right to be forgotten, but only for information which is accessible via search engines and is “inadequate, irrelevant."

The new rules seem to involve broader justification. According to the commission's description, “when you no longer want your data to be processed, and provided that there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it, the data will be deleted."

But who will determine what “legitimate" grounds are?

Fines for Facebook?

What is clear, is that it will become more costly for companies who break EU data protection rules, also for American companies like Google and Facebook, to which the rules equally apply.

“In future, firms breaching EU data protection rules could be fined as much as 4 percent of annual turnover - for global internet companies in particular, this could amount to billions,” said Albrecht, of the Green group in parliament.

“In addition, companies will also have to appoint a data protection officer if they process sensitive data on a large scale or collect information on many consumers,” he noted.

The parliament's civil liberties committee will vote on the compromise on Thursday morning (17 December) in Strasbourg.

It will then need approval from the plenary of the parliament, as well as from member states. Following this, a two-year implementation period will apply, meaning it could be until early 2018 before the rules are in force.

EU data chief says passenger information bill is unjustified

European data protection supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, says there is not enough information to justify the necessity of the EU Passenger Name Record scheme, which stores and can divulge the personal details of passengers flying in and out of Europe.

Stakeholder

European insight from the Huawei Global Connectivity Index

The economy of all countries is transforming into a digital economy whether they like it or not. Huawei's Global Connectivity Index provides an indicator of which EU countries are best poised for development and growth.

News in Brief

  1. Former EU climate chief cheered by 40,000 activists in Denmark
  2. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  3. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  4. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  5. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  6. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  7. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  8. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations

Key details on how Europeans will vote

It's one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world with over 400 million eligible voters. National rules apply, and national parties run, but the stakes are at European level.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Thunberg: We can still fix climate, but must start today
  2. Turnout up in Slovakia, with pro-EU liberals scoring high
  3. Belgium votes in hybrid EU-national election
  4. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  5. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  6. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  7. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  8. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us