Wednesday, 7th November 2012
UK: The Committee's opinion on the European Union Data Protection framework proposals
Source: House of Commons Justice Committee (UK)
When EU legislation for general and commercial data protection purposes was last agreed in 1995, the digital economy was in its infancy and the boom in social media had not begun. As a result, 17 years on the current EU Directive has been described as an analogue regime for a digital world. Additionally, EU citizens have new rights and freedoms to protect their data and privacy as contained within the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Lisbon Treaty.
In January 2012, the European Commission published detailed legislative proposals for European reform of data protection. These take the form of both a draft Regulation and a draft Directive. We agree that the draft Regulation is necessary, first to update the 1995 Directive and take into account past and future technological change; and secondly to confer on individuals their new rights and freedoms. We can see why the Commission also wish to update data protection for the purpose of law enforcement as part of an overall package, but we are concerned that the twin-track approach being taken will cause confusion for data subjects and in particular for organisations within the criminal justice system. We are also concerned that the data protection provisions contained in the draft Directive are weaker than in the draft Regulation, and agree with the UK Information Commissioner that data protection principles should be consistent across both instruments. This must be at a high level.
The draft Regulation, through harmonising data protection laws across the 27 Member States, has the potential to make data protection compliance easier, in particular for small business who wish to trade across the European Union. We can understand why the European Commission decided that a Regulation was the correct instrument to achieve harmonisation, but by also setting out prescriptive rules there is no flexibility to adjust to individual circumstances. We believe that the Regulation should focus on stipulating those elements that it is essential to harmonise to achieve the Commission’s objective, and that Member States’ data protection authorities should be entrusted to handle factors associated with compliance.
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By Adrian Janes
Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.
A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.
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