Saturday

16th Nov 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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.

Feature

Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

"If evil is not defeated, it tends to expand", Natalia Magnitsky, the widow of a Russian anti-corruption activist, has said, as EU diplomats discuss human rights sanctions 10 years after his death.

Commission defends Breton's Atos over police data

The European Commission defended Atos for hosting EU police data, despite its own public guidelines that state operational and technical copies should not be entrusted to third parties. Atos former CEO Thierry Breton is set to become a European commissioner.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us