MEPs pass 900 changes to data laws

eu againThe EU Parliament’s industry committee has rubberstamped more than 900 amendments to the draft data laws, sparking a war of words between the head of the committee and privacy groups which claim Brussels is caving in.
The move is another positive step for the DM industry, following last month’s changes voted in by the committee on the Internal Market & Consumer Protection (IMCO).
One of the main amendments is that companies which control data will no longer have to seek explicit permission to process personal information, as they will be able to cite “legitimate interest”.
The definition of personal data has also been narrowed to exclude ‘pseudonymous data’, which is similar to a Yahoo position document, leaked last week. The tech giant recommended supplementing “the definition of personal data in the draft regulation by adding a distinct subset of data considered pseudonymous, which will trigger differential obligations”.
Irish MEP Seán Kelly, who heads up the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee refuted suggestions that he been pressured into any of the amendments.
He said: “My door was open, but nobody overly influenced me – not big companies, NGOs or fellow MEPs.” He maintained that the vote was a credit to the committee, saying the proposals were “by and large, well-balanced”.
But civil liberties groups and consumer organisations have accused MEPs of caving in to pressure from big business.
“The Conservative and Liberal parties in the Parliament have voted against the interests of European consumers, who expect MEPs to ensure existing EU data protection standards are not diluted,” said Monique Goyens, director general of the European consumer organisation BEUC.
Lobbying continued right up the final minutes before the vote. Civil liberties organisation La Quadrature du Net even posted a message on Twitter to remind citizens that they had “less than an hour” to contact parliamentarians with the aim of blocking “dangerous amendments”.
According to the group: “Most of the compromise amendments attempt to modify the report by relaxing the obligations about collecting personal data.
“This consciously keeps consumers in the dark and affords a license to collect and process personal data according to commercial interests. Regrettably, the majority of ITRE committee members did not remain strong on this in the face of concerted commercial pressure,” Goyens said.
The next discussion by Ministers of the proposed data protection rules is set for the upcoming Justice Council on March 8.
The Employment Committee (EMPL) is the next to vote, and will be followed by the lead committee – which presides over civil liberties (LIBE) – at the end of April.

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