EU chief Viviane Reding – the architect of the proposed shake up of European data laws – has seemingly backtracked on plans to make marketing opt-in only, claiming this was never the intention in the first place.
In what could be seen as a major U-turn, and one which is likely to raise more than a few cheers at the DMA’s HQ in London, Justice Commissioner Reding (pictured) said: “At the moment, consent is one of several bases which make the processing of personal data lawful.
“For instance, a business can process personal data for commercial purposes so long as it does not have a significant effect on the rights of the person concerned.
“This is called the ‘legitimate interests’ ground. The commission has not proposed to change this. Legitimate interests is the ground that is currently used by the marketing industry. It will continue to be used by the marketing industry. From the perspective of this regulation, consent is irrelevant in such cases. It will continue to be irrelevant.”
Addressing a private conference in Brussels, Reding also condemned what she called the “overblown discussion” over some of the proposals.
She added: “Data protection law has not fallen from the sky. The current data protection directive states that since 1995 consent has to be ‘unambiguous’.
“The Commission thinks it should be ‘explicit’ and 27 national data protection authorities agree. This has become a major talking point.
“What will this mean in practice? That explicit consent will be needed in all circumstances? Hundreds of pop-ups on your screens? Smartphones thrown on the floor in frustration?”
She went on: “No. It means none of these things. This is only the scaremongering of certain lobbyists.”
The issue of consent has been one of the major concerns over the new laws; the DMA predicted “explicit consent” would cost the industry millions of pounds to implement.
Reding’s speech followed a crucial debate of the EU justice ministers last week in Brussels. Chaired by Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter, it proposed that the compulsory appointment of a data controller for all firms which handle personal information should be scrapped. The DMA claimed this proposal could cost each business up to £75,000 a year, and up to £173m for all UK businesses.
Shatter said: “On the question of whether the appointment of a data protection officer in companies should be optional, the answer is largely ‘yes’.”
The Irish EU Presidency still hopes to secure an initial political agreement on the proposal before the end of its term of office (in June). UK Justice Minister Chris Grayling wrote to Reding denouncing the potential cost of the reform. She replied that the Commission was trying to strengthen the single market, exactly as demanded by Prime Minister David Cameron.
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