Will the EU Finally Pass Data Reform Measures in 2014?

European Union Flag

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Shortly after Viviane Reding expressed hope for the European Union’s data reform measures taking shape in 2014, Peter Fleisher offered a harsh rebuke of what has been presented so far. Reding is vice president of the European Commission and EU justice commissioner; Fleisher is Google’s global privacy counsel.

Speaking at a New Year’s reception held by Dutch telecoms firm KPN, Reding described her 2014 agenda, which started with data reform. She said the “mass spying,” which came to light this year, “have been a wake-up call.” According to Reding, to handle the fallout, Europe must act.

“As you know, the European Parliament has shown the way, backing proposals for strong, uniform EU data protection rules which the European Commission put on the table already two years ago,” Reding said. ”The heads of state and government committed to a ‘timely’ adoption of the new rules in October. Not much progress has been made since. But I hope that under the Greek presidency that has just started, member states will now finally take the big decisions needed.”

The EU’s data directive dates to 2012, when the European Commission proposed to reform 1995 regulations. The purpose was to create stronger online privacy and boost the digital economy. The regulations also sought to create a comprehensive rule on data for member states.

In December, Hubert Legal, a legal adviser to the EU, raised concerns about the data protections and the “one-stop shop” it would create. “The reason it is a bad outcome is because you are talking about a one-stop shop, but the one-stop shop for whom? It’s the one-stop shop for the companies … for the person whose data is being processed, it’s not a one-stop shop, it’s going to be three stops and the three stops are going to be as ineffective as each other,” Legal told the Financial Times.

Countries like Britain have also been slow to move forward on the regulations, because leaders there believe it will hurt business. The delays and legal opposition caused some officials to question how much longer reform could drag on and ultimately succeed. “It’s going to be difficult to keep it … this issue is very complicated and it will take time to find a solution,” on EU diplomat said in December to the Financial Times.

Fleisher ruminated on the data reforms in 2013 on his private blog on Wednesday. “Europe’s much-ballyhooed, and much-flawed, proposal to re-write its privacy laws for the next twenty years collapsed. The old draft is dead, and something else will eventually be resurrected in its place,” Fleisher wrote.

“Whatever comes next will be the most important privacy legislation in the world, setting the global standards,” he continued. “I’m hopeful that this pause will give lawmakers time to write a better, more modern and more balanced law.”

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