By Culturekiosque Staff
BRUSSELS, 25 JANUARY 2012 The European Commission has today
proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU's 1995 data protection rules to
strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe's digital economy. As
published in a release with supporting documents, technological progress
and globalisation have profoundly changed the way data is collected,
accessed and used. In addition, the 27 EU Member States have implemented
the 1995 rules differently, resulting in divergences in enforcement. A
single law will do away with the current fragmentation and costly
administrative burdens, leading to savings for businesses of around €2.3
billion a year.The initiative aims to help reinforce consumer
confidence in online services, providing a much needed boost to growth,
jobs and innovation in Europe.
"17 years ago less than 1% of Europeans used the internet. Today, vast
amounts of personal data are transferred and exchanged, across continents
and around the globe in fractions of seconds," said EU Justice
Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commissions Vice-President. "The
protection of personal data is a fundamental right for all Europeans, but
citizens do not always feel in full control of their personal data. My
proposals will help build trust in online services because people will be
better informed about their rights and in more control of their
information. The reform will accomplish this while making life easier and
less costly for businesses. A strong, clear and uniform legal framework at
EU level will help to unleash the potential of the Digital Single Market
and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation."
The Commission's proposals update and modernise the principles
enshrined in the 1995 Data Protection Directive to guarantee privacy
rights in the future. They include a policy Communication setting out the
Commission's objectives and two legislative proposals: a Regulation
setting out a general EU framework for data protection and a Directive on
protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention,
detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related
Key changes in the reform include:
- A single set of rules on data protection, valid across the EU.
Unnecessary administrative requirements, such as notification
requirements for companies, will be removed. This will save businesses
around €2.3 billion a year.
- Instead of the current obligation of all companies to notify all
data protection activities to data protection supervisors a
requirement that has led to unnecessary paperwork and costs businesses
€130 million per year, the Regulation provides for increased
responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data.
- For example, companies and organisations must notify the national
supervisory authority of serious data breaches as soon as possible (if
feasible within 24 hours).
- Organisations will only have to deal with a single national data
protection authority in the EU country where they have their main
establishment. Likewise, people can refer to the data protection
authority in their country, even when their data is processed by a
company based outside the EU. Wherever consent is required for data to
be processed, it is clarified that it has to be given explicitly, rather
- People will have easier access to their own data and be able to
transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily
(right to data portability). This will improve competition among
- A right to be forgotten will help people better manage data
protection risks online: people will be able to delete their data if
there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it.
- EU rules must apply if personal data is handled abroad by companies
that are active in the EU market and offer their services to EU
- Independent national data protection authorities will be
strengthened so they can better enforce the EU rules at home. They will
be empowered to fine companies that violate EU data protection rules.
This can lead to penalties of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the global
annual turnover of a company.
- A new Directive will apply general data protection principles and
rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The rules
will apply to both domestic and cross-border transfers of data.
- The Commission's proposals will now be passed on to the European
Parliament and EU Member States (meeting in the Council of Ministers)
for discussion. They will take effect two years after they have been
Personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it
relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be
anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, your posts
on social networking websites, your medical information, or your
computer's IP address. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights says that
everyone has the right to personal data protection in all aspects of life:
at home, at work, whilst shopping, when receiving medical treatment, at a
police station or on the Internet.
In the digital age, the collection and storage of personal information
are essential. Data is used by all businesses from insurance firms and
banks to social media sites and search engines. In a globalised world, the
transfer of data to third countries has become an important factor in
daily life. There are no borders online and cloud computing means data may
be sent from Berlin to be processed in Boston and stored in Bangalore.
On 4 November 2010, the Commission set out a strategy to strengthen EU
data protection rules (IP/10/1462 and MEMO/10/542). The goals were to
protect individuals' data in all policy areas, including law enforcement,
while reducing red tape for business and guaranteeing the free circulation
of data within the EU. The Commission invited reactions to its ideas and
also carried out a separate public consultation to revise the EUs
1995 Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).
EU data protection rules aim to protect the fundamental rights and
freedoms of natural persons, and in particular the right to data
protection, as well as the free flow of data. This general Data Protection
Directive has been complemented by other legal instruments, such as the
e-Privacy Directive for the communications sector. There are also specific
rules for the protection of personal data in police and judicial
cooperation in criminal matters (Framework
The right to the protection of personal data is explicitly recognised
by Article 8 of the EU's
Charter of Fundamental Rights and by the Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty
provides a legal basis for rules on data protection for all activities
within the scope of EU law under Article 16 of the Treaty
on the Functioning of the European Union.
Why Web 2.0
Spells a Reckoning for Google and Mass
Mike Reed's Flame
Pardon My French:
Bloggers Debate France's Presidential Candidates
The World's First New
Media Search Engine
Wordsearch: A One-day Work of
Ars Electronica: Hybrid Living in