Tuesday

21st Nov 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

EU Commission to target fake news

Mariya Gabriel, the EU digital economy commissioner, announces expert panel and says fake news can be tackled if people are given credible and diverse information.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017