Germans seek tougher EU data laws

German MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht has called on the EU to go further in its proposals for a new Data Protection Regulation, claiming the current draft does not go far enough to protect individuals.
The move, which could be seen as a major blow to UK efforts to water down many of the excesses of the proposals, has already drawn criticism from European digital rights group, EDRi, which branded Albrecht’s report a fudge.
In general, the German MEP supports the proposals for a coherent and robust data protection framework with strong enforceable rights for individuals, but suggests some substantial modifications to the Commission’s draft text.
Albrecht reiterated his view that pre-ticked boxes do not express free consent, and also pushed for a stricter “right to be forgotten” as well as the inclusion of a definition of “anonymous data”, following demands from fellow parliamentarians.
Albrecht also suggested a compromise on the controversial “legitimate interest” approach. Legitimate interest would allow companies to process personal data without permission if their reasons for doing so are more compelling than the individual’s right to privacy.
Albrecht suggested that this should only be allowed in “exceptional” circumstances and that the individual concerned must be informed.
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who drew up the original proposals, welcomed the report, along with another by Greek MEP Dimitrios Droutsas that suggests minor changes from a law enforcement perspective.
However, EDRi said in a statement that “Albrecht has sought to improve on the Commission’s initial proposal and to address many of the concerns raised by his colleagues, but the resulting text is therefore a mix of straightforward attempts at positive improvements and attempts at compromise based on the opinions so far expressed by his colleagues.”
Fellow parliamentarian, Alexandro Alvaro was even more critical. “The design is often vague, lacks bold proposals and in general, the report is lacking in depth and balance,” he said on his website.
According to the European Commission, 72% of Internet users are worried that they give away too much personal data and feel they are not in complete control of their data. The Commission also projects that a single set of rules on data protection across the EU will remove unnecessary admin requirements for companies, claiming it will save businesses around €2.3bn a year.
But the UK Government’s response to the draft – spearheaded by industry body the DMA – predicts the proposals will cost UK forms up to £47bn.
The European Parliament’s LIBE Committee will discuss the draft reports on 10 January, and the Parliament as a whole will review them in March before a vote in April.
UPDATE: Albrecht is also demanding that users of search engines and social networks are able to control how much of their data is sold to advertisers.
“Users must be informed about what happens with their data,” he said, “and they must be able to consciously agree to data processing – or reject it.” Facebook and Google, which hae been the main beneficiaries of the sale of web-browsing data, have been lobbying against the curbs. Other data-reliant sectors such as health services, rail and smart-meter makers have also voiced concerns.

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