27th Feb 2024

EU privacy watchdog hammers secret anti-piracy talks

The European Union's data privacy watchdog has hammered the European Commission for engaging in secret international negotiations over the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Peter Hustinx, on Monday (22 February) issued a formal opinion concluding that the EU executive was endangering EU data protection rules and even internet users' fundamental rights by engaging in talks with the US, Canada, Japan and other powers on a new multilateral agreement to combat counterfeiting and piracy - the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • What is known about Acta mostly comes from leaks (Photo: Flickr)

"The EDPS regrets that he was not consulted by the European Commission on the content of an agreement that raises significant issues as regards individuals' fundamental rights, and in particular their right to privacy and data protection," Mr Hustinx' office said in a statement.

"He views with concern the fact that little information is publicly made available about current negotiations."

Leaks about the negotiations have been dripfed to the media by sources close to the talks. The latest one, the most recent negotiating text, was leaked to IDG News Service, a technology news outlet, on Friday.

In response to the new text, Mr Hustinx assessed there to be "a potential incompatibility between envisaged measures and data protection requirements," and raised fears that the Acta legal framework could result in "large scale monitoring of internet users" and the international imposition of 'three strikes' laws, such as that recently passed in France, which cuts off internet access of people accused of illegal downloading.

"Whereas intellectual property is important to society and must be protected, it should not be placed above individuals' fundamental rights to privacy and data protection," he said.

Mr Hustinx added that "less instrusive" means should be found to fight piracy and that the EU should implement "appropriate safeguards to all data transfers" between itself and other recipients outside the bloc.

He also wants the EU to proceed more openly with negotiations over Acta, suggesting a public consultation.

Although MEPs have requested access to the documents, the commission has failed to do so because it would require the prior approval of all nine other partners to the talks: the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The EDPS opinion comes just as the UK government announced it is to back away from three strikes-style legislation, first proposed last year.

London said in a statement on Monday that: "We will not terminate the accounts of infringers - it is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme and therefore probably criminal cases."

How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Amazon is one step closer to being banned from the European Parliament after the employment committee complained of a lack of cooperation in recent years — what is the process, and when can a final decision be expected?

EU deal on new gig-workers rules unlikely before June elections

Another provisional agreement on improving working conditions for platform workers fall apart on Friday, as four member states decided not to support it — making the chances of a directive before the June European elections unlikely.

EU agrees less ambitious rules on platform work

A new provisional agreement on the platform workers directive has been reached — but what has changed from the previous deal, and how will it affect the expected reclassification of 5.5 million platform workers as "employees"?


The end of street anonymity — is Europe ready for that?

The EU's AI Act, despite setting global standards, fails to ban facial recognition in public spaces — setting a concerning precedent for many. Is Europe really ready to sacrifice street anonymity for enhanced security?


The AI Act — a breach of EU fundamental rights charter?

"I hope MEPs will not approve the AI Act in its current text," warns a senior EU civil servant, writing anonymously. The normalisation of arbitrary 'algorithmic' intrusions on our inner life provides a legacy of disregard for human dignity.


Why are German armed forces spying on domestic citizens?

It is not widely-known that the German armed forces carry out reconnaissance activities. Despite involving around 7,000 personnel, the German government does not consider the Bundeswehr is running an intelligence service, thus there is barely any control or legal oversight.

Latest News

  1. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  2. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit
  3. Angry farmers block Brussels again, urge fix to 'unfair' prices
  4. Luxembourg denies blind spot on Nato security vetting
  5. Record rate-profits sees EU banks give shareholders €120bn
  6. Why the EU silence on why Orban's €10bn was unblocked?
  7. Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line
  8. More farmers, Ukraine aid, Yulia Navalnaya in focus This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us