22nd Mar 2018

EU ministers to fall short on data protection bill

  • EU ministers are not expected to make much progress on the data protection reforms (Photo: luc legay)

After months of haggling and 26 meetings since January, EU ministers are unlikely to reach an agreement this week on a key component of the EU’s draft data protection bill.

National negotiators are still unclear on how to streamline data protection oversight via the bill’s so-called ‘one-stop-shop mechanism’.

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The issue had already derailed negotiations at a meeting in the Council, representing member states, last December.

“The discussion hasn’t moved on to be honest since the last Council,” said an EU official on Tuesday (3 June).

Instead, justice ministers are expected to reach a consensus on other less contentious issues when they meet Friday morning in Luxembourg to discuss the bill, which aims to turn the EU’s 1995 data protection directive into a more powerful regulation.

An EU presidency source said it “is out of the question” of finalising the one-stop-shop in Luxembourg.

The proposal is important because it harmonizes decision-making across the bloc.

It entitles EU citizens to complain about data mishandling by internet firms to their national data protection authorities instead of seeking more expensive redress in the country where the company is based.

It also allows companies to tackle EU-wide data cases through the data chief in the EU country in which they have their HQ, instead of dealing with 28 different EU authorities.

Member states in December had already clashed over the issue after the Council’s legal services said it would be overly complex and too expensive to implement.

At the time, EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding described the blockade as a step backwards for data protection rights.

The Commission, for its part, says the one-stop-shop is needed because it will cut red tape and lead to savings for businesses.

Partial agreements are still expected.

Ministers are likely to move ahead on rules governing the transfer of personal data outside the EU.

They are also likely to agree that the reformed data protection rules should apply to all companies, even if located outside the EU.

An EU source said the expected agreements on Friday are likely to “be heavily caveated”, leaving open the possibility of changes in the future.

But any discussion on the European Court of Justice ruling against the US internet giant Google are off the table.

The court last month ruled in favour of a Spanish national for the company to delete personal data relating to him from its search results.

Google has since launched a dedicated website where EU nationals can make requests to have certain personal data de-listed.

The company on Tuesday said it had received some 41,000 requests to take down personal data in the first four days of the website’s launch, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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