Privacy campaigners have seized on the US Prism security scandal to launch a stinging attack on those trying to water down the proposed new EU data laws, potentially scuppering the lobbying gains of the UK marketing industry.
The brunt of the attack so far has been concentrated on British MEP Sarah Ludford, who last week became the first UK MEP to openly criticise the shake-up of European data legislation.
Echoing what many in the UK marketing industry have been saying for months, she claimed many of the measures are too draconian and could have a serious impact on business.
There are more than 3,000 amendments to the EU Data Protection Regulation on the table, although negotiations are taking far longer than the EU envisaged, sparking warnings that the proposals are “on the verge of collapse”.
But the Open Rights Group claims the amendments put forward by Ludford – of which there are 128 in total – would mean consumer data could be transferred to the US without Britons even being informed.
Executive director Jim Killock said: “Baroness Ludford needs to protect EU citizens from having their data shovelled into Prism-ready servers without even being notified. These are real risks that people have a right to know about.”
The move is likely to heighten fears within the marketing community that privacy groups could hijack the Prism-gate scandal as a means of dissuading MEPs from rubberstamping the amendments.
Some industry experts have already claimed the uproar could have a serious impact on the use of marketing data, with one saying: “Customers might just think twice about interacting with brands if they think their every move is being monitored.”
However, privacy groups are reliant on pumping up public outrage. But according to a poll for The Huffington Post UK this week, the majority of Britons remain unfazed by the scandal. It revealed that 40% of those surveyed believe the security services should even be able to break data laws in order to prevent terrorism.
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding has also waded in, demanding answers from US attorney general Eric Holder. In a letter rifled off to Holder this week, Reding wrote that she was concerned America’s efforts “could have grave adverse consequences for the fundamental rights of EU citizens”.
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