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New European Data Protection Law ‘On Track’

11th Jul 2014

The UK is vigorously opposing new data protection laws, but they are on track to be agreed across the EU anyway, leading figures have stated.

Thomas Zerdick, head of reform at the European Commission’s data protection unit, told the annual Privacy Laws & Business conference that the new regulation, which would create a statutory ‘right to be forgotten’, while placing more focus on other companies, including American businesses, was on ‘a good track’ towards being agreed next year.

The new regulation was first suggested in 2012, in an effort to update and improve the Data Protection Directive, and was almost unanimously adopted by the European Parliament before the May election. Changes introduced because of this included a move to increase the maximum fine placed on businesses from 2% to 5% of a company’s global annual turnover.

Zerdick stated that the only way in this process was forward, as the regulation gains momentum, and hopes to be ready by 2015.

The next stage will be to reach some sort of consensus with the European council of ministers, but this is likely to meet resistance from the United Kingdom. The UK is pushing for the law to be updated by a directive, as opposed to the proposed regulation, which would mean implementation could be done through national legislation, rather than happening immediately.

However, Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor, predicts that a regulation will still be pushed through, despite British objections, because the decision would be made based on a majority vote. Hustinx added that the issues remain to be fully worked out, including the drive for a ‘one-stop shop’ to deal with complaints regarding data protection.

Christoper Graham, the UK’s information commissioner, agrees that modernisation of the system is a priority, but warned that if the regulation is over-prescriptive, the results would be counter-productive. Graham stated, keen to stress that this was his own opinion, and not that of the UK government, that by ‘over-speccing’ any new legislation, ‘we are in danger of creating something that, because it cannot be done, will be less use than what we have got at the moment’.

He added that this was a ‘global phenomenon’, and as such, it needs to be worked out so that there can be ‘global solutions’.