Thursday

19th Jul 2018

MEPs want to scrap US data agreements

  • MEPs want to enter negotiations on data protection reform with member states as soon as possible (Photo: Jan Albrecht)

MEPs want the EU to scrap data protection agreements with the US as they increase pressure on member states to start negotiations on reforming data protection rules in the EU.

German Green Jan Philipp Albrecht on Wednesday (12 March) told reporters in Strasbourg that it would be irresponsible of member states to keep postponing negotiations on the reforms after over two years of discussions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

"We need reform and the regulation as soon as possible so that we can start negotiations directly after the [May] elections," he said.

Deputies at Tuesday’s debate in the assembly vented their frustration at the delay.

The Greek EU presidency, for its part, is set to start talks among member states around June.

Albrecht, who steered the regulation through the parliament, said giant US tech and Internet companies are exploiting loopholes to work around Europe’s outdated data protection rules.

Ireland’s low data protection standards, he pointed out, has attracted major firms like Facebook to set up headquarters in Dublin.

“The same for Google so they know they will have softer or lighter treatment when it comes to data protection and they know for example they will get that in Ireland and not in other countries like Austria, France or Spain so we want to end that situation,” said Albrecht.

But Ireland’s data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes rejects the label that he is a light touch regulator.

He told this website in January that there is a misunderstanding about the Irish approach.

“The effective enforcement action takes place behind closed doors. Our objective cannot be primarily to punish, the objective has to be that people’s rights are being respected,” he said.

Hawkes, for his part, dropped an investigation into Facebook Ireland Ltd’s alleged involvement in the so-called Prism scandal, which is said to give the National Security Agency (NSA) back-door entry into major American tech and Internet firms.

Austria-based pro-transparency group Europe vs. Facebook issued the complaint late last year following the NSA revelations made by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Hawkes noted that the so-called Safe Harbour agreement, which is designed to ensure that firms follow EU data protection laws when processing the personal data of EU citizens, is being respected.

“We concluded that there was nothing to investigate. Personal data had been legitimately transferred to the US under the [European] Commission's Safe Harbour ‘adequacy’ decision which provides for access to such data for law enforcement purposes,” said Hawkes.

Hawkes pointed out that he is bound, under Irish law, by the commission’s adequacy decisions.

MEPs vote to scrap data agreement

But MEPs on Wednesday voted en masse to have the Safe Harbour agreement replaced. The resolution also condemns the bulk collection of personal data by American and some European intelligence agencies.

Austrian law student Max Schrems, who is behind Europe vs. Facebook, said Ireland’s high court would hear his Prism case at the end of April.

The judge is set to decide whether Hawkes will need to investigate the complaint.

Schrems is confident the court will decide in his favour. But still he thinks little will change in the long run.

“The problem that data protection commissioners (DPC) have is that they would have to tell Facebook to turn off their servers tomorrow. And no DPC in the world would have the balls to do that,” he told this website.

Meanwhile, the assembly on Wednesday also endorsed a regulation on how to handle data between people and business, as well as a separate directive on data protection in law enforcement. Over 620 MEPs voted in favour of the regulation, while just over 370 voted in favour of the directive.

Interview

Facebook, Skype challenged in EU over spy affair

A group of Austrian students have challenged the EU-based subsidiaries of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Skype and Yahoo on data privacy following revelations that they allowed US intelligence services to search to Europeans' data.

EU court scraps data surveillance law

The EU court has struck down a law on internet and phone surveillance, saying loose wording opens the door to untoward snooping.

EU judgement on Facebook to take over a year

Any EU-level judgement on a case filed against Facebook for its alleged involvement in helping the Americans snoop on millions of people is likely to take over a year.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

EU leaders still in search of migration plan

Select EU leaders met amid rising tension over migration, with Italy's PM, who had threatened to boycott the summit, putting forward a new plans to stop boats from leaving Libya.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  2. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  3. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs
  4. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's 'Stop Soros' law
  5. EU warns Turkey on anti-terror bill
  6. Report: EU secretly scorns UK's Brexit paper
  7. Hungary: UN treaty could 'inspire millions' of migrants
  8. Nato reacts after Trump disparages Montenegro

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us