EU Committee Votes To “Water Down” Data Protection Regulation

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The decision shows dissent in the EU Parliament, but is far from being final

On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) voted in favour of relaxing the European Data Protection Regulation (DPR) proposals. Privacy campaigners say the parliament is giving in to US commercial pressure.

The decision is not final, and there are five more votes before the fate of the DPR is sealed at the plenary meeting, likely to take place in the summer.

According to La Quadrature Du Net, the vote shows that the EU Parliament is “caving in” to US lobbying groups on the questions of privacy, and should be treated as a “wake-up call.”

Wake up and smell the ashes

According to the Internet freedom campaigners at La Quadrature Du Net, IMCO has voted to “water down” the privacy legislation, making it easier for US companies to operate in Europe after 2016, when the proposals are expected to become law.

US VS EU © Marques, Shutterstock 2012    For example, IMCO voted to allow easier profiling of users by companies, and lessen the importance of reporting personal data breaches as soon as they occur. At the same time, most proposals to strengthen regulation were rejected.

“This vote shows how much the European Parliament can be influenced by the massive lobbying driven mostly by giant US corporations (banks, insurance and Internet services) going against the interest of EU citizens,” wrote Jérémie Zimmermann in a statement from La Quadrature Du Net.

“It should act as a wake up call for citizens to defend their right to privacy against the illegitimate collection, process and trade of their personal data,” he added.

The organisation says that there is currently no consensus on DPR among the different parties of the EU Parliament, and there are plenty of opportunities for counter-lobbying.

Last year, the US government openly stated its opposition to DPR, asking the Chamber of Commerce to lobby the EU Parliament in order to change the proposals. For this purpose, it created a dedicated ‘taskforce’ with around 50 members, in addition to countless US lobbying groups already present in Brussels.

This aggressive campaign had attracted the attention of the EU Commission, but sources told TechWeekEurope at the time that “calls for postponing the reform substantially or for lowering its level of ambition were rejected.”

Meanwhile in the UK, David Cameron seemed to suggest that in the future, Britain could pick and choose EU laws that it wants to follow. “I want us to be pushing to exempt Europe’s smallest entrepreneurial companies from more EU Directives,” said the prime minister on Tuesday.

The position of the UK government as a whole doesn’t seem to be much different. “At a time when the Eurozone appears to be slipping back into recession, reducing the regulatory burden to secure growth must be the priority for all Member States. It is therefore difficult to justify the extra red-tape and tick box compliance that the proposal represents,” wrote the government last week, in response to the Justice Select Committee’s report on DPR.

Last Friday, La Quadrature Du Net was up in arms when European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes backtracked on proposals to enshrine Net Neutrality in the EU law.

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