Thursday

18th Jan 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: printing.com)

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.

Marketing

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.

Profiling

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.

MEPs target exports of cyber surveillance tech

MEPs have introduced a human rights clause into the export of cyber surveillance technology as part of EU-wide reforms to prevent abuse by autocratic regimes. The Strasbourg plenary will vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia
  2. Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe
  3. Spitzenkandidat system 'difficult to get rid of', hopes lead MEP
  4. Rights NGOs face fresh threats across the EU, agency says
  5. EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate, chief insists
  6. EU 'hypocrisy' condemns people to Libya, says NGO
  7. Next year's EU election at risk of Russian meddling
  8. Hungary to tax NGOs that 'help' migration

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap