MEPs to vote on data protection proposal today


Members of the European Parliament will today vote on a European Commission proposal on data protection, as the privacy policy of companies such as Google continues to come under scrutiny.

On Monday, the French data regulator, CNIL, announced plans to take action against Google, arguing the company had failed to give “precise and effective” answers to a warning by EU national regulators in October.

Google reiterated that its privacy policy, changed last March, respects EU law and the company has fully engaged with CNIL.

CNIL is acting on behalf of regulators in the other member states, including Ireland.

Single set of rules

The EU is revising its data protection laws and proposes to establish a single set of rules on data protection and online privacy. At the moment, each member state applies its own laws regarding online privacy, with different sanctions.

The commission’s proposal, announced just over a year ago, must be endorsed by the European Parliament. Ireland hopes to secure agreement during its presidency of the European Council. Today’s vote will see members of the European Parliament’s industry committee vote on the proposals. MEPs have tabled more than 900 amendments to the original proposal.

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly, lead negotiator for the group, said it is crucial administrative burdens and restrictions on small businesses are reduced.

“The proposals by and large are well-balanced. We won’t be changing the fundamentals. We don’t see any contradiction between protecting the fundamental rights of the individual and allowing businesses to develop.”

While the main focus has been on large corporates, concern has been raised about the impact of the proposals on smaller companies. The proposal under consideration includes concessions for small and medium-sized enterprises whose main activity is not data collection.

Pressure on Ireland

There is concern also the system may put pressure on data protection authorities in certain countries, particularly those such as Ireland which has a relatively large number of registered companies.

Under the new proposals, each national data protection authority will be responsible for implementing the new EU law. If there is an EU-wide impact, it consults with the European Data Protection Board. The European Commission only steps in if the laws are not being applied correctly.

Speaking ahead of today’s vote, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said the CNIL decision on Google illustrated the need for a Europe-wide approach to online privacy.

“One continent, one law, is extremely important for businesses,” she said, pointing out the administrative costs of complying to 27 different regulations are €2.3 billion a year.