Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

EU data bill exposes political rifts

  • 70 percent of Europeans worry that companies use their data for purposes different to the one it was intended for, an EU survey says (Photo: SWIFT)

Ideological and political divisions emerge among European Parliament political groups as they debate amendments on the draft EU data protection bill.

“I can see a shift towards more of the protection, under quotation marks, of business interests and not the protection of citizen’s fundamental rights,” Greek socialist MEP Dimitrios Droutsas told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (15 May).

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.

Droutsas is the parliament’s lead negotiator on the data protection bill.

The draft law is composed of a regulation and a directive.

The regulation aims to balance privacy rights and business interest. The directive deals with the same issue of citizen’s rights but with public authorities like the police.

The combined two rank among the parliament’s most lobbied draft bills ever. Well over 4,000 amendments have now been tabled.

The US government and industry giants helped put forward many of the amendments via the parliament’s two largest groups, the liberals and the centre-right.

The groups are now in the laborious process of reaching a compromise text before it goes to plenary for a vote.

“You can very slowly see red lines, very distinctive lines in the approach by the different political groups,” said Droutsas.

The bill updates the 1995 data protection directive and aims to harmonise data protection rules across all 27-member states.

Deputies in 2011 agreed on a resolution to ensure that the draft bill would be at least as strong if not stronger than the 18-year old directive.

At the time, around 1 percent of the world's communication passed through the Internet. Today, it is around 97 percent.

“It [1995 directive] is the standard that we are using to move ahead,” said German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht who heads the draft version of the regulation.

“If companies outside of Europe are acting on the European market and do not respect our existing law then we are not adjusting our behaviour…they need to adjust their behaviour to our existing law. That is what we are doing with our regulation. We are enforcing the law we have today,” he said.

Albrecht noted that discussions about bureaucratic burdens and additional costs are a diversion.

“What I am doing is harmonising existing law on one level and have it better enforced. That’s what I’m doing, not more, not less,” he said.

But some insiders are now concerned that the two largest groups, with their combined efforts, will force through the lobbied amendments that pro-data advocates say could undermine the bill.

The amendments driving the rift among the parties include those that weaken the definition of consent, allow profiling, remove a person’s control of his personal data, entitle businesses to use data if they believe it is in their ‘best interest’ to do so, and exclude pseudonymous data from protection.

Centre-right Irish MEP Sean Kelly, who drafted the industry committee's opinion on the bill, says the group differences are found in the detail.

“There are obviously philosophical differences because there are different political groups,” he noted.

Kelly introduced a number of diverging details into the draft that largely reflect proposals put forward by online retail giant Amazon.

Companies are entitled to use data without consent if they think that their “legitimate interests” outweigh the privacy rights of the citizen.

Kelly proposed extending this to third parties. He then proposed extending it to third parties for processing the data for reasons that are incompatible with the original data collection, says Joe McNamee, the executive director of the Brussels-based European Digital Rights.

“This completely severs the link between the citizen and their data and undermines the whole purpose of the regulation,” says McNamee.

For her part, UK liberal MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford, proposed deleting a requirement for companies to tell consumers where they obtained their personal data, in cases where this information was received from other sources.

“Indeed I strongly support that companies must give clear information to users but I felt some of the commission text was too prescriptive and detailed,” she told this website by email.

Amsterdam wins EU medicines agency on coin toss

The staff of the London-based EMA will move to the Dutch city of Amsterdam after Brexit, following a coin toss. Chance also decided the new home of the European Banking Authority: Paris.

Interview

EU asylum chief: The 'future' arrived in 2015

Jose Carreira, the European Asylum Support Office executive director, lays out his vision for an agency on the cusp of becoming much bigger and more powerful.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017