Friday

23rd Jul 2021

Industry and MEPs grapple over data protection law

  • The EU data protection bill aims to give people more control over how their data is used (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

Concerns by industry that the European Parliament’s version of the EU data protection bill will fundamentally change how data complaints are handled are unfounded, says the head of the EU data advisory group, Jacob Kohnstamm.

Kohnstamm chairs the influential ‘Article 29 working group’ which advises EU lawmakers on data protection and privacy issues. He is also the head of the Netherlands' data protection authority (DPA).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

He refuted claims that there are major differences between the draft data protection bill proposed by the European Commission and the amended bill proposed by German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht when it comes to who should spearhead investigations against industry abuse.

“I hear the noise over and over again that there is a big difference between the regulation like it is proposed by the European Commission and what Albrecht is doing and I don’t think that is true,” he told this website.

Each member state has a data protection authority to handle complaints and ensure industry complies with national privacy laws.

Some DPAs have more power than others and are more active in imposing sanctions.

Germany’s DPA can, for instance, set the amount a company needs to pay if it violates data protection law. But in Ireland, the DPA must first go through the Irish court system. Other DPAs simply issue press releases in a name-and-shame tactic.

Under the commission’s proposal, the power of the DPAs would remain the same and their verdicts binding across the whole of the EU.

The commission’s draft EU data bill keeps the lead authority in the country of the company’s main headquarters along with additional safeguards to ensure its regulation is applied uniformly throughout the Union.

EU-based complaints against Facebook, for example, would see Ireland’s data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes take the lead.

But amendments tabled by the European Parliament’s lead rapporteur Albrecht would also entitle residents of any EU member state to file complaints against Facebook with their own national data protection authorities.

Under Albrecht’s proposal, Hawkes would then have a co-ordinating role with the data protection authority in the country where the complaint was originally filed.

This means Hawkes would have to consult with other authorities before adopting any measure.

In case of disagreement between Hawkes and another authority, then the European Data Protection Board, composed of members of the Article 29 working group, would step in to mediate.

“I am fairly in line with what he [Albrecht] says is that the outcome of that decision making procedure led by the lead DPA in a co-ordinating role should be binding on all supervisory authorities,” notes Kohnstamm.

The issue is key for industry. Facebook is opposing the dual nature of Albrecht’s lead authority.

Erika Mann, Facebook’s managing director of policy at its Brussels office, said Albrecht takes away the role of the lead authority in the so-called one-stop shop principle to the detriment of achieving the European single digital market.

Kohnstamm rejects the notion.

“The national data protection authority should be and remain the contact point for its own citizens,” he said.

“The main difference between the proposition of the commission and the main proposition of Albrecht, is not killing the idea of one-stop shop, but having it slightly differently organised,” he said.

National laws are currently based on an outdated 1995 EU data protection directive that the commission wants to overhaul with a single EU-wide legislation.

The commission proposed its draft in January 2012.

The heavily-lobbied bill is now at the European Parliament where deputies are reviewing close to four thousand amendments before it goes to vote in the civil liberties committee at the end of May.

Facebook warns against 'detailed' EU data law

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.

German data chief attacks credit-profile firms

Imagine trying to buy stuff online but being refused because you live in a low-income postcode. It happens in Germany, with hope for change pinned to a new EU law.

Opinion

Google's collision course with member states

The regulators have issued so many warnings to Google, and the issues raised are so integral to how Europeans view their fundamental human rights, that it is difficult to see how the EU regulators can back down.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us