Monday

29th May 2017

Euro-deputies weaken data protection law

  • The industry committee's opinion on data protection was adopted by 33 votes in favour, 24 against and one abstention (Photo: Bombardier)

A handful of euro-deputies in the industry committee (Itre) have introduced industry-backed amendments that weaken a draft EU regulation on protecting people's private data on the Internet.

The amendments reworded a number of definitions that would exempt the content industry from having to obtain the consent of people they want to profile for marketing purposes.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“The effect of the adopted text would be to effectively rip up decades of privacy legislation in Europe, undermining trust and confidence - to the detriment of both citizens and business,” said the Brussels-based NGO, European Digital Rights (EDRi), in a statement following the vote earlier this week.

Swedish Pirate party MEP, Amelia Andersdotter, told this website on Thursday (21 February) that the committee has effectively exempted the data of “all people who are acting in a professional capacity" from the regulation on privacy of personal data.

Business contacts would not be included in the definition of personal data either, she noted.

The problem is manifold as other amendments also exempt pseudonymous data and anonymous data from the EU law.

True anonymous data is less useful to industry because it undermines the value of information for marketing purposes, says Fredrik Soderblom, co-founder of the Swedish-based company Storesafe.com.

“If you have properly anonymised data it wouldn’t be commercially interesting to buy it because you want it to be able to pinpoint the individual so you can direct the advertising [at them],” Soderblom told EUobserver.

But to work around the problem, social media outlets like Facebook could make a person’s profile anonymous while giving out data on his or her online "friends." The information could then be defined as pseudonymous data.

Pseudonymous data is information that cannot immediately place the identity of the individual. Device identification numbers, such as IP address, Mac address and Bluetooth numbers as well as mobile phone location details are types of that data that could become "pseudonymous."

Industry uses pseudonymous data in targeted advertising campaigns. But mishaps sometimes occur.

In 2006, America Online released a document that contained the search queries of its users. While the queries themselves were "pseudonymous," the move sparked protest from some users who feared the search results could still be traced back to them.

To prevent mishaps and misuse, privacy advocates want industry to first ask for users' consent.

But Itre’s amendment on pseudonymous data would free industry from the obligation.

The one-sentence amendment describes pseudonymous data as any personal data that has been “collected, altered or otherwise processed so that it of itself cannot be attributed to a data subject without the use of additional data.”

Joe McNamee, EDRi executive director, told this website on Thursday that the “definition is absurd”.

He says it is too broad and too widely open to interpretation.

“If you get the definitions wrong in a piece of legislation then the whole edifice has no foundation,” said McNamee.

The definition means that a person’s name could be pseudonymous but not necessarily their mobile phone number, he added.

Pro-privacy advocates argue that all the data, pseudonymous or not, should come under the data protection regulation.

Meanwhile, Itre’s compromise amendment is broadly in line with a five-page-long position paper circulated to MEPs by online firm Yahoo!, which was obtained by this website.

The Yahoo! paper says that if the data does not contain a person’s name, address or other information that can identify an individual, then it should not have to seek consent for profiling use.

Euro-deputies from the centre-right EPP, the liberal Alde and the eurosceptic ECR group tabled the compromise amendments.

The committee voted them through, along with many others, late on Wednesday afternoon.

The move comes after a London-based NGO, Privacy International, earlier this month exposed a series of MEPs for copy-pasting industry lobbyists' ideas into EU law.

The civil liberties committee will also get to table amendments and to vote on them in April before the bill is adopted in a plenary vote later this year.

Children among dead in UK bomb attack

Children are among the victims after a suspected suicide bomber detonated at the Manchester Arena on Monday, the latest in a string of terror attacks to hit Europe.

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhat's Going on in Catalonia? Join the Debate on 8 June
  2. Swedish EnterprisesDo We Need a More Social Europe? A Lively Debate Awaits You on 7 June
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersDiscover the Role of Feminism in the Peripheries of Europe on 9 June
  4. Malta EU 2017EU Group Launched to Focus on Priorities and Policies Concerning Children
  5. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  8. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  9. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  10. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  12. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade

Latest News

  1. From Greece to Scotland, we stand by Europe
  2. Juncker keen to build EU 'bridge' to Trump
  3. Ministers water down post-Dieselgate reform
  4. Club de combat: des espions russes recherchent des recrues européennes
  5. Judges refuse to 'let go' of Le Pen's fake jobs case
  6. Merkel: Europe cannot rely on its allies anymore
  7. Macron to tell Putin EU sanctions to stay
  8. China summit and Juncker in MEP tax hearing This WEEK