Wednesday

18th Jan 2017

Facebook warns against 'detailed' EU data law

  • Facebook says it generated €15 billion in added-value in the EU in 2011 (Photo: Spencer E Holtaway)

The world’s largest social media company, Facebook, says the EU draft data protection regulation should remain broad enough to create incentives for business to comply.

“To the extent that the regulation goes off to do odd things, like defining in detail technical standards that is better left to industry players, then it would create huge disincentive for the companies to comply,” said Richard Allan, Facebook’s head of public policy of Europe, Middle East and Africa, in Brussels on Monday (25 March).

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 Internet giant says fixing technical details at the regulation’s outset would upset the different requirements and standards used by social networks, pharmaceutical companies or banks.

The data regulation is a major overhaul of a 1995 directive and is one of the more complex legislative initiatives being pushed through at EU level.

The European Commission says its proposal would create a more uniform application of data protection rules throughout the EU.

Member states at the moment have their set of laws that are applied differently, creating legal confusion in cases that sometime span several countries.

The regulation also introduced concepts like data ownership and the "right to be forgotten" to strengthen individuals' rights.

Breaking the rules laid out in the bill could incur fines of up to 2 percent of a company’s global turnover.

The heavily-lobbied data bill is now with the European Parliament where its rapporteur, German Green Jan Albrecht, introduced a number amendments that Facebook says will weaken the European digital single market.

“Albrecht weakened the concept of the one-stop-shop principle which in effect would be detrimental to the achievement of the European single digital market. He took away the lead role of the data protection authority,” said Erika Mann, Facebook’s managing director of policy at its Brussels office.

Data protection authorities (DPA) are currently tasked to ensure rules are applied correctly and handle complaints where the company is based.

Facebook’s main offices are in Dublin and falls under Ireland’s data protection chief, Billy Hawkes. If the complaint is filed in Germany or elsewhere in the Union, then Hawkes’ office takes the lead role in the investigation.

The commission and Facebook want this to remain the same, but with additional safeguards to ensure the regulation is applied coherently throughout the Union.

“The vast majority of data protection authorities in Europe under the existing directive are effectively working with the one-stop shop model already and finding that it works well,” said Allan.

But Albrecht’s proposal shifts some of the power of the lead authority to the country of residency where the complaint was lodged to “sufficiently guarantee a DPA’s independence” notes his report.

Some DPAs, like Germany’s data protection commissioner in Schleswig-Holstein, are more proactive in filing privacy complaints against Facebook.

Schleswig-Holstein’s commissioner in December last year ruled that Facebook’s real name policy is a violation of German and European law.

The commissioner said people should be allowed to use pseudonyms against standard Facebook practices that require a real name when opening up a new account.

A German administrative court in February overturned the commissioner’s decision. The court said Germany’s law does not apply since Facebook is headquartered in Ireland.

Albrecht’s amendment, if included in the final version of the bill, could potentially reverse such decisions and open up more legal fronts against the company.

This article was updated on 28.03.2013. The original article said Albrecht's proposal would shift the lead authority to the country of residence. In fact, the lead authority would remain in the country of the main establishment but would have a co-ordinating role with the authority in the country of residence.

Estonia joins US in passing Magnitsky law

Estonia has voted to ban entry to foreigners deemed guilty of human rights abuses in a law targeting Russia and inspired by the Magnitsky case.

Children's rights at risk in EU hotspots

Lack of lawyers and other staff has caused logjams on asylum claims, which particularly hurt children, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency told MEPs.

News in Brief

  1. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister
  2. Juncker has 'slight doubts' on his group's convention idea
  3. EU parliament spat changes nothing, says Juncker
  4. German elections likely on 24 September
  5. Maltese PM announces plan for Brexit summit
  6. EU needs more Turkey-style migrant deals, Malta PM says
  7. Dutch minister: Don't underestimate risk of hacking
  8. European court rules against Russia adoption ban on US

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey