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Privacy Groups Say That EU’s Proposed Data Protection Law Is Not Good Enough

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Europe based privacy and activist groups have slammed European Union’s proposed data protection law. The advocacy groups, including Privacy International, Access and the Panoptykon Foundation and EDRi, have procured a draft version of the upcoming data protection law and leaked it online. The 305 page document clearly shows that instead of safeguarding the personal information of European citizens from governments and businesses, the proposed law would actually help those who are violating the privacy of ordinary citizens.

The privacy groups allege that while a new set of privacy rules have been approved by the European Parliament, government ministers from different countries, who are also members of the Council of the European Union; are making significant modifications to the text of the document and rewriting it as they see fit. The groups also said that some of the modifications being done to the document clearly oppose the proposals made in the original document. They also expressed concern that the proposed modifications would render the law useless and would not offer any real data protection to the people residing within Europe. As an example, the privacy groups highlight the modifications being done to the text of the legislation that specifies how the citizens should be tracked online.

While the original document says that “explicit consent” must be obtained from people who are about to be tracked, the modified text says that the settings of the internet browser used by the targeted individuals could constitute as consent for being tracked online. The wordings are especially dangerous for those who are not aware of the privacy settings available within browsers since any default tracking enabled within the browser could expose them to unwanted surveillance. The groups also point out that instead of considering the right to protect one’s personal data as a fundamental right, the Council of ministers is saying that the right is not absolute and must be evaluated with respect to its function within the society and also balanced with other fundamental rights.

The language of the document also suggests that in the event personal data of Europeans gets leaked by a business or government entity, people affected would have to approach the regulators instead of filing class action lawsuits against those responsible for the data leak. Even more appalling is the fact that some ministers are actually lobbying to lower the threshold of the fines that could be imposed on organizations that are involved in a data leak.The draft document also shows that people’s personal information could be processed by organizations having legitimate interest in doing so.

However, there is no well-defined guideline available for what constitutes a “legitimate interest” presenting businesses with a loophole that could be exploited for profit, spying and just about anything. The Council has even suggested that profiling of citizens should be allowed in the interests of national security overriding the text approved by the European Parliament which voted against profiling of European citizens. The leaked document clearly shows that some European countries are still not comfortable with providing absolute privacy to their citizens. The draft needs to be approved by the European Parliament before it becomes a legislation but if the current version gets approved, Europeans may not have that much privacy in the future.

July 18, 2015

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