Expected EU data breach rules draw fire before their release

The planned Internet security strategy is attacked by industry, privacy groups

European Commission proposals for a strategy on cybercrime have come under fire before they have even been released.

The Commission is due to present its plan for a European Strategy for Internet Security on Wednesday, but Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes has already said that under the proposals, E.U. member states will be asked to guarantee minimum capabilities to respond adequately to threats.

According to media reports, the plans could include forcing all companies that store large amounts of data, such as search engines, social networks, e-commerce sites and cloud service providers, to report data breaches or face sanctions such as fines.

Currently, the European Union's 27 member states have their own national laws on data breach notification for such companies, although telephone transport and utility companies are required to report any theft of sensitive information. There are also more limited security breach disclosure provisions in the draft Data Protection Regulation.

"Prompt reporting means competent national authorities can react quickly to incidents and minimize their impact. We'll need to share critical information in a secure and confidential manner: within and between public and private sectors. CERTs and other competent bodies need to exchange regularly and rapidly, to warn and assist," Kroes said when she outlined her plans last March.

Industry leaders warned Thursday that extending the scope of reporting mandates could harm businesses. The plan "could subject a wide array of industries to sweeping new regulation, and appears to mandate technology standards largely written by government, not industry," Liam Benham of IBM Europe said in a statement.

Meanwhile, digital civil liberties group EDRi said that the draft proposal was "totally misguided" and "an attempt to militarize security in cyberspace."

Kroes said last March that Internet security cannot be left to the national security agencies. But EDRi said on Thursday that a directive "that encourages one single agency to acquire primacy in each member state would undermine the constitutional arrangements that various states currently have for separation of powers and accountability."

"Instead of pulling together police forces, CERTs and service providers, ENISA seeks to set up a classified network of military and intelligence agencies. It is a tragedy that the European Union is now considering following this U.K.- and U.S.-centric policy lead," said the organization.

EDRi also warned that extending the scope of data breach notification rules would give the managing agency access to "sufficient information from almost everyone online" adding that this would surely be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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