21st Mar 2018

National governments punch holes in EU data protection bill

  • Digital rights campaigners say member states are undermining basic standards in the EU's data protection bill (Photo: nitot)

National governments are unraveling a EU data protection bill for the benefit of big business, according to leaked documents published by pro-privacy campaigners.

Digital rights advocate Joe McNamee at the Brussels-based EDRi on Tuesday (3 March) said the regulation is now at risk of becoming “an empty shell”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Should national security interests be accepted as reason to profile citizens? (Photo:

He said member states are “undermining the meaning of every article, every paragraph, almost every single comma and full stop in the original proposal.”

Raegan MacDonald, European policy manager at Access, accused the member states of “carving out so many loopholes there’ll soon be nothing left.”

The bill aims to update two-decade old EU data protection laws and create one set of rules across all 28-member states via a legally binding regulation.

First proposed in 2012, the bill has undergone intense lobbying over the years with the European Parliament having adopted its position in March 2014 before passing it onto the co-legislating member states.

MEPs spearheading the bill at the time had to sift through some 4,000 amendments.

Despite the lobbying, parliament’s version was largely seen as an improvement on the privacy protection rights initially proposed by the commission.

Member states have since held protracted internal debates with signs suggesting that Germany is now leading the pack in rolling back key points in the original draft.

Wording in the latest texts dated from the end of February (see here,here, here, and here) show government representatives diluting issues of consent, a number of other rights, and a central oversight and arbitration feature known as the one stop shop.


On consent, anyone can authorise a company to process personal details for things like marketing.

However, national governments say that the same company should then also be able to pass on the details to another company – through a “legitimate interest” clause - without the person being informed.

Those companies can then process the data for reasons that are entirely unrelated to the original authorisation.

“If a company you have never heard of can process your data for reasons you've never heard of, what is the point in having data protection legislation,” note the digital advocates in an eight-page analysis of the leaked texts.

Another anomaly is that member states have removed the concept of “explicit consent”, initially proposed by the commission.

Default browser settings may automatically accept cookies, which can be used by advertising websites to track sites visited. According to the leaked texts, a user provides consent to be tracked and profiled, if, for instance, those default browser settings remain untouched.

Other sensitive bits include removing an article that requires people to be informed on “concise, transparent, clear and easily accessible policies” whenever their personal data is being used.


They have also reinserted an article, removed by the parliament in their text, that would allow governments to claim national security interests to profile their own citizens.

“This is basically providing a blank cheque to governments which, under various excuses, may start to profile people based on their online political activities,” notes the analysis paper.

On oversight, the commission's plan 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 national regimes.

A single data protection authority would also be responsible for taking legally binding decisions against a firm. Their final decision applies to all other member states.

In case things go wrong, a European Data Protection Board (EDPB) would step in to make sure the rules are applied correctly.

But member states do not like the idea and instead have proposed a more complex arbitration feature that would require the consent of two data protection authorities in some cases. Ministers had already expressed dislike of the dea last December.

EU lawmakers are hoping to enter into negotiations with the member states before the summer in the hope of having the bill passed before the end of the year.

EU ministers back key pillar in data reform bill

Member states on Thursday (4 December) reached a broad consensus on a key area of the EU’s reformed data protection bill but some problems remain for the next EU presidency to resolve.

EU countries to break promise on roaming surcharges

National governments are set to break a promise EU politicians have been making to citizens, by suggesting that roaming surcharges could continue beyond the end of 2015, and adding exceptions to the principle of network neutrality.

EU and US sign law enforcement data pact

EU and US have signed a data protection agreement following 2013 revelations that US security services conduct mass, indiscriminate surveillance on EU citizens.

EU to probe UK 'election-rigging' firm

MEPs are to investigate whether UK firm Cambridge Analytica and Facebook misused private data to sway votes amid increasingly lurid revelations.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders expected to approve Brexit future talks guidelines
  2. Tusk: EU must 'continue to engage' with US on trade
  3. European elections set for 23-26 May 2019
  4. EU tries to find common candidate for top UN food job
  5. Facebook post triggers Norway no-confidence vote
  6. Merkel: 'no reason' to sanction Schroeder for Russia support
  7. MEPs and Council strike deal on posted workers' rights
  8. EU parliament to investigate Facebook data 'breach'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverHiring - Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience - Apply Now!
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections