SME Chamber

Reading seeks to revamp data privacy rules

 Low compliance costs for businesses.  – Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, today unveiled plans for an overhaul of the EU's data protection rules.


The proposals aim to give people more control over their data while making it easier for business to use electronic data.

Reding said: "The protection of personal data is a fundamental right for all Europeans, but citizens do not always feel in full control of their personal data."

She said the proposals, to revise EU legislation on data protection dating back to 1995, would "help build trust in online services because people will be better informed about their rights and in more control over their information".

Reding is proposing a "right to be forgotten" as part of the reform. This would allow people to delete their data if there were not legitimate reasons for retaining it. People would have to give explicit consent for their data to be processed.

The proposals also aim to reduce costs for businesses by creating a single set of laws in all 27 member states, avoiding the need for complying with different rules in different countries. Reding said this would save companies around €2.3 billion a year.

Companies holding personal data would have to notify national authorities about any breaches within 24 hours. If they fail to do so, they would face fines equivalent to 2% of their annual turnover. 

All companies irrespective of where in the world they are based would have to follow the EU's rules if they are handling EU citizens' data and are active in the EU market. 

The proposals will have to be approved by national governments and MEPs before being adopted.

Reding's proposals have been welcomed by MEPs across the political spectrum. Axel Voss, a German centre-right MEP, said the proposals were a "major step forward to a comprehensive set of rules" which the Parliament had been asking for.

Claude Moraes, a centre-left MEP from the UK, said that the Commission had made "strong efforts to improve legislation" and to move away from a "patchwork of different national provisions".

Renate Weber, a liberal MEP from Romania, said her group welcomed the move to give internet users the right to exercise more control over their data by having to give explicit consent for it to be processed.

The European consumers' association BEUC reacted positively to the proposal. Monique Goyens, BEUC's director-general, said: "All the elements for a strong, user-centric legal framework are here. Today the EU is taking a large step towards giving data rights back to [their] rightful owners, individuals themselves."

ETNO, the European association of telecommunications network operators, also welcomed the proposals. Luigi Gambardella, ETNO's chairman, said that the Commission proposal was an "important step towards achieving a world-class privacy protection framework".

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represents commercial software developers, struck a rare negative note. Thomas Boué, BSA's director of European affairs, said: "The Commission's proposal today errs too far in the direction of imposing prescriptive mandates for how enterprises must collect, store, and manage information."

He said that there was a risk that the proposal's current design would "bog down companies with onerous compliance obligations, which would inhibit digital innovation at the expense of job creation and growth".

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