EU data protection reform triggers warning from civil rights groups worldwide

Privacy groups say EU proosals undermine basic privacy protections

European Union data-protection reform proposals could undermine basic privacy rights globally, a growing chorus of critics say.

More than 60 civil rights groups from all corners of the world including Europe, Africa, the U.S, Central and South America, Asia and Australia are calling on the European Commission to stop what they said is an effort to undermine people's right to privacy.

The organizations are "deeply concerned" about changes to the data protection reform package being made by European countries gathered in the Council of the EU, one of the European Unions three law-making bodies.

The way things are going, privacy protection could end up being weaker than it is now, the groups said in an email on Tuesday to the Commission, the EU's executive and regulatory arm. Current data protections are based on a 1995 directive, now considered outdated.

The organizations are worried that weak data protection rules in Europe might have an effect on privacy laws in other countries. "Europe's data protection framework is not just important for the protection of European citizens, it is not just important for building trust in European businesses, it is also crucial as an international gold standard for data protection and privacy on a global level," the civil rights groups wrote.

The Council is discussing changes to the new data protection regulation. The European Commission made the original proposal for a new regulation, which the European Parliament adopted with slight changes in March last year.

However, while the original plan was well-defined and included strong data protections, documents leaked about the Council's plans in March show that it is trying to destroy key elements of the original proposal, according to an analysis by European civil rights group EDRi, which wrote the email on behalf of the rights organizations.

For instance, the Council proposes to allow companies to collect personal data under a "legitimate interest" exception, which means that a company does not need to get an individual's consent to gather personal information if it feels it has a legitimate reason to do so. According to rights groups, this would be a clear violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that such data must be processed for specified purposes and with the consent of the person concerned.

Last month, the Council already agreed on part of the reform package, giving the green light to a new plan to deal with cross-border privacy cases. The plan was supposed to put in place a "one-stop-shop" mechanism that would make it easier for businesses and citizens to deal with privacy-related complaints.

However, by adding unnecessary steps, that plan has become vastly more bureaucratic then it needs to be, said EDRi's director Joe McNamee, who added that the Council's proposals are getting to a stage in which fundamental data-protection principles are being undermined. It is time for the Commission to keep the promises it made in its original proposal and not allow existing protections to be undermined, he said.

The Commission has taken note of the issues raised in the letter and aims for a high level of data protection that is at least as strong as it is under the current Data Protection Directive, a Commission official said in an email.

The Council is expected to agree on the whole reform proposal in June, after which the plan still has to be discussed with the Parliament and the Commission. Those talks are expected to start immediately after the Council reaches a decision and are slated to finish before the end of the year, the official said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags regulationeuropean commissioneuropean unionlegislationgovernment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?