New rules will strengthen European citizens’ privacy protections, while a controversial proposal to raise ‘age of digital consent’ to 16 was devolved to member states
Europe has taken a big step towards stronger, pan-European data privacy laws, after agreeing the text of new reforms.
The agreement, four years in the making, comes after six months of “trilogue” negotiations between the European Commission, the European parliament and the Council of the European Union, in the last legislative session of the year.
Controversial plans that could have seen those under 16 blocked from social media by the increase in age of digital consent were watered down in the final text.
The new data privacy laws comprise of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs the use and privacy of EU citizens’ data, and the Data Protection Directive, which governs the use of EU citizens’ data by law enforcement.
The new privacy regulations aim to create strong data protection law for Europe’s 500 million citizens, streamline legislation between the 28 member states pushing a digital single market and boost police and security cooperation. It is set to replace the outdated patchwork of national rules that have only allowed for small fines in cases of violation.
Jan Philipp Albrecht, the parliament’s chief negotiator, said that the new laws would give regulators real means to clamp down on misconduct and that “firms breaching EU data protection rules could be fined as much as 4% of annual turnover for global internet companies in particular, this could amount to billions”.
For EU citizens, the regulations will clarify the laws around a “right to be forgotten”, give them a right to know when their data has been hacked, a right to transfer their data between providers and give easier access to their own data and transparency around how it is processed.
The draft text is expected to be approved in full by the full plenary and member states before it is passed into law. Once approved, the rules would become official within a two-year span.
Albrecht said that under the rules “companies will not be allowed to divulge information that they have received for a particular purpose without the permission of the person concerned. Consumers will have to give their explicit consent to the use of their data.”
Part of the GDPR governs the age of digital consent and whether it should be increased to 16 from 13. After a backlash from technology companies, who would be forced to gain consent from a parent or guardian to process certain types of data of those under 16, and child protection bodies, an amendment to the text made 15 December, which allows individual member states to lower the age of digital consent to 13.
Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative MEP said: “Concerns have been listened to and the UK’s age of consent will not be forced to change.”
Digital European future
Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the EU Digital Single Market, said: “The digital future of Europe can only be built on trust. With solid common standards for data protection, people can be sure they are in control of their personal information.”
Věra Jourová, commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality said: “Harmonised data protection rules for police and criminal justice authorities will ease law enforcement cooperation between member states based on mutual trust, contributing to the European Agenda for Security.”
The news was welcomed by many. Sophie In’t Veld of the ALDE liberal group said: “This reform is a big leap forward. The EU will now have the most extensive data protection laws in the world and will set global standards.”
Phil Lee, partner with law firm Fieldfisher, said: “This is the most significant development in data protection that Europe, possibly the world, has seen over the past 20 years. Forget Safe Harbour and Right to be Forgotten – this is much, much more significant.”
The new regulations, while strong on EU citizens’ data protection, are intended not to hamper business and to encourage growth in the European data economy, legislators say. Ansip said: “Our next step is now to remove unjustified barriers which limit cross-border data flow: local practice and sometimes national law, limiting storage and processing of certain data outside national territory.”[Source:-The Gurdian]