European Union leaders are set to push on with new data protection rules (DPR), suggested at last week’s EU summit, despite attempts to delay their implementation.
The leaders of all 28 EU member states discussed the topics of data protection, mass surveillance and the digital economy at a meeting last Thursday. Whilst all agreed that there is a need for improvement in creating a strong and robust digital economy, with barriers between states removed in order to promote the ‘digital single market’, the meeting unsurprisingly also encompassed much discussion over alleged spying by the US. This debate was likely fueled further by claims that the NSA had hacked the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
One segment from the council conclusions says,
“It is important to foster the trust of citizens and businesses in the digital economy. The timely adoption of a strong E.U. General Data Protection framework and the Cyber-security Directive is essential for the completion of the Digital Single Market by 2015.”
The EU executive remain keen to implement the new rules by the spring of next year; a move seen as critical by some considering that new commissioners will be engaged at the beginning of 2005. Should the current proposal be carried over to 2015 then some analysts believe that the data protection rules may have to be completely redrafted by the new Commission, effectively wasting all the work that has gone before.
Speaking on Friday, the Commission’s Digital Agenda spokesman, Ryan Heath, said:
“This gives a good push for 2014. We want to see the European Parliament vote before the Parliament elections in May and then to wrap up between the Commission, the Council and the Parliament in rest of 2014.”
Not all members are keen on such swift implementation however with the UK and Sweden preferring a later date. Indeed the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, reportedly argued for removing a date altogether with the UK having some concerns that the new regulations could prove to have a negative impact on businesses.
The Commission, however, believes that the new rules could see early adoption via a majority vote, something the Swedes and British could not hope to block on their own.
The text of the regulation, approved last Monday by lawmakers in the EU parliament’s civil liberties committee, will strengthen the Union’s data protection laws. One key component of the plan is a “right to erasure” clause which would limit Internet companies’ access to users’ private data. Companies breaking such rules could face massive fines of up to 100 million Euros.
The new regulations are set to be welcomed by politicians with Jan Philipp Albrecht, the member of the European Parliament tasked with seeing the regulation through, saying that he was happy that the regulation’s importance had been stressed. He said,
“Now it is up to the ministers to do their homework and get this negotiated soon.”
Despite reservations from the British, business leaders also seem to be happy too. Liam Benham, vice president of IBM Europe, said,
“We welcome the decision by EU leaders to prioritise quality over speed in their discussion on the data protection regulation.” But he added: “The current proposal contains major defects that not only would undermine Europe’s competitiveness, but would also fail to deliver the sort of online privacy we all want to see.”
Whether further allegations of spying by the NSA, or any revelations about similar activity amongst EU member states will impact the implementation of the new DPR remains to be seen.