Facebook Lobbies Brussels In Earnest On EU Data Privacy Proposals

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Facebook joins other US bodies pushing for changes to European Commission data privacy proposals

Facebook is lobbying hard to influence European Commission policy makers on recent proposals to shake up data privacy laws across member states, TechWeekEurope understands.

Earlier this year, the EC outlined its plans for new data protection rules, laying out a regulation and a directive. They both contained controversial proposals, including the ability for regulators to fine a company two percent of annual turnover for serious failings and an obligation to confess to data breaches within 24 hours of them happening.

A source close to the matter said today the company was putting plenty of effort into lobbying in Brussels to get officials to rethink the laws.

The social networking giant is particularly concerned about the provision for the “right to be forgotten”, according to Simon Milner, director of public policy for Facebook in the UK and Ireland. The right would allow citizens to have their data eradicated from Internet-based services, such as Facebook. But Facebook believes it would infringe on people’s right to remember and freedom of expression.

EU, European Union © SmileStudio Shutterstock 2012Data privacy problems

At a Westminster eForum debate held today, Milner said there were a number of areas where the law makers “hadn’t got things right”, but the “key one” was the right to be forgotten.

“The right to delete your online data is an important one, the right to erasure is a key principle,” Milner said. “However, the right to be forgotten… raises many concerns with regard to the right of others to remember and to freedom of expression.

“It is important this can be implemented in practice, but as drafted the current proposal risks introducing measures which are both unreasonable and unrealistic.

“In terms of the deletion of data that has been copied onto another service, we think this obligation would be unreasonable, and simply not feasible for services like Facebook and others… it would fundamentally change how the Internet works.

“We’ve urged policy makers to consider fully the implications on… freedom of expression and finding the right balance on different uses of the Internet.”

A Facebook spokesperson added: “We will continue to work closely with politicians and regulators in the EU in order to share our experience and expertise to contribute to achieving sound privacy regulation and a thriving digital sector.”

In April, Dutch site Data News discovered Facebook had plans to double its staff in Brussels, from two to four.

Facebook joins the US Chamber of Commerce, which TechWeekEurope understands has the backing of the federal government on the issue, in placing pressure on EU policy makers to alter the proposed laws, which have taken a bashing from various public and private organisations across the world.

The Chamber of Commerce has a task force of 50 employees working on the issue, whilst other major tech firms such as Google are also thought to be involved in lobbying Brussels.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is not happy with all of the stipulations in the EU regulation and directive. Today, information commissioner Christopher Graham said he did not think the right to be forgotten was going to remain in the proposals in its current form.

He said the laws were over-prescriptive and unaffordable for the privacy watchdog. “If every data protection authority did everything specified in the regulation, they would not get the funding to do it,” Graham said. “It would be less effective than what we have now.”

Last week, the Justice Committee listed a plethora of issues it has with the European Commission’s data protection framework proposals, and told it to “go back to the drawing board”.

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