European Parliament Data Protection Reform in Numbers

The data protection reform in the European Parliament is taking unexpected turns. After 20 years of studies, academic research, European research projects, evaluation by national data protection authorities and their collaboration organisations, and more money spent on proper, impact-assessed and evidence based policy making, the Commission put forth an interesting proposal in January of 2012 to update the data protection of the European citizen. However, it appears that the regulatory process is hijacked by a few corporate actors who are targeting the European institution of weakest means to defend itself against the onslaught: the Parliament. But it doesn't even end there....

Studies of €250 000 discarded

Various parliamentary committees have commissioned studies on the topic of data protection during the current, and 7th, legislature. It turns out that in the last three years alone, the parliamentary committee for internal market and consumer protection, as well as for industry, research and energy, have spent a total of €250 000 on such studies. These studies conclude that we need better enforceable, more robust data protection legislation. European industries persistently show innovative leadership in privacy enhancing technologies because of the existing European data protection framework. Consumers are uncomfortable with what they perceive as a lack of enforcement of the current data protection framework. Small and medium sized enterprises are concerned that the abuse of data protection rules by larger actors will lead them to lose control over their own data. But many of the deputies in the European parliament - more upsettingly, those who belong to the two committees mentioned above - have not yet found it in them to internalized the knowledge from the studies they themselves have ordered.

Industry associations represent American interests

Out of 11 industry associations that have sent me e-mails in November or December 2012, all have American members. Furthermore, I've personally met with people from Business Software Alliance and AT&T+Oracle, and I have had planned meetings with TechAmerica, Adobe and Sky who´ve got cancelled. Individual position papers transmitted to me during November or December come from Opower, a company which has been championed by the American government. Also eBay and Amazon have been in touch with me. Google and Facebook have been more active lamenting the law proposal in media than any other law proposal ever made by any institution. And this bearing in mind that I belong to one of the least lobbied MEPs with some form of formal responsibility for this dossier (I am shadowing for the Greens in ITRE).

1827 amendments tabled in three opinion-giving committees

The committees for the internal market and consumer protection, industry, research and energy and legal affairs are making supporting opinions for the main committee on the work on data protection. They have tabled a total of 1827 amendments on the regulation, many of which are picked straight out of lobby documents that don't even make the effort of tying the concerns presented with actual scientific or factual basis.

The European Union needs your voice heard to fairly protect your privacy and your personal data. There are good examples from both Sweden and Romania of projects from citizens that help them raise their voice towards the parliament. We hope that similar projects will arise in other member states, so that all the knowledge we share, as a community, does not have to fall victim to an essentially badly hijacked political process.


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