It’s been just over a year since the European Union’s Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding set out her proposals to reform the bloc’s data-privacy rules.
It’s a contentious dossier, which would oblige any company in the world seeking to do business in the EU to comply with the new laws. It’s in the ministers hands’ after being reviewed by several committees within the European Parliament.
Then there was “copy-pastegate,” where chunks of text proposed by companies lobbying the Parliament found their way directly into amendments by several lawmakers. There’s been plenty of discussion about how to craft rules which are fair for small businesses, while effective for the Web giants that hold vast amounts of our personal data — much of it freely uploaded.
That’s a lot to resolve, so watch this space. But several issues will dominate the agenda
To use the cliché example, a baker with 500 addresses he delivers to shouldn’t be treated the same as a data-processing/marketing operation with 500 client profiles. So it’s not about one-size-fits-all, but finding data-privacy obligations that match the risk of what would happen if the data was lost or used unlawfully. In a world of online medical records, Internet shopping and Facebook FB +3.94% “likes” this is a lot of data.
Another question ministers will discuss is whether the new data-protection rules should also apply to “pseudonymous data” — data that can be traced back to an individual computer or other device, but not the user’s name. It’s not yet clear whether this will be included in the regulation. At the moment, anonymous data – which cannot be linked to a specific user or device at all – isn’t covered by the data-protection rules.
Flexibility for the public sector
Some EU countries are big on transparency, with many documents publicly available. Countries also hold more and more data on citizens and use it in interesting ways. And of course, some things have to be public, such as the land registry, which contains a ton of data. Getting the right balance between these various considerations is likely to keep ministers busy
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