EU privacy watchdog weighs in on data protection reform, shares concerns

He also released an app that allows legislators and citizens to compare the proposed texts of the upcoming data protection regulation

Flags in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 17, 2015

Flags in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 17, 2015

As European Union lawmakers in the Commission, Parliament and Council debate a new data protection law, the EU's data protection watchdog has chimed in, expressing some concerns and saying individuals' privacy rights should be at the core of the legislation.

Although he is perhaps best placed to offer an opinion on the matter, legislators have no obligation to listen to European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Giovanni Buttarelli, who released his own proposed draft of the law on Monday.

A lot is at stake, said Buttarelli. "This reform will shape data processing for a generation which has no memory of living without the internet. The EU must therefore fully understand the implications of this act for individuals, and its sustainability in the face of technological development."

Buttarelli has no legislative powers, but hopes to influence the negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and representatives of European countries gathered in the Council of the EU. Those three legislative bodies are trying to reach a compromise agreement on the bloc's new data protection law before the end of the year.

A new regulation must replace an outdated one from 1995, and is important to citizens and tech companies alike. EU legislators are trying to get the law ready for a digital age where use of the Internet, smartphones and cloud computing are common.

Buttarelli gave his opinion in a 12-page document. But he also took a more modern approach, releasing an app for iOS and Android that allows legislators and citizens to compare the proposed texts of the upcoming data protection regulation side-by-side. It includes the proposals made by the three legislative bodies as well as his own.

While the various texts proposed by legislators are on the right track, serious concerns remain, he said.

For instance, he disagreed with a Council proposal to allow companies that process data to share that with a third party if there is a "legitimate interest" to do so. Since a company's legitimate interests include making a profit, perhaps through the sale of personal data, this gives insufficient protection for individuals, he said. The EU should also prevent direct access by third country authorities to data located in the EU, he said.

People should be able to take data stored about them from one company to another, either by direct transfer or by receiving a copy of the data which they themselves can transfer elsewhere, he said.

Buttarelli is in favor of hefty fines for companies that violate the upcoming law. In agreement with Parliament, he proposed fines of up to €100 million (US$110 million) or up to 5 percent of an enterprise's annual worldwide revenue, whichever is higher. The Commission and the Council both favored limiting fines to €1 million or 2 percent of a company's global annual revenue. Fines for antitrust breaches, in comparison, can be up to 10 percent of worldwide revenue.

He also looked at personal data breaches, which in his opinion should be reported to the relevant authority within 72 hours. That's in line with the Council's proposal, although it does give companies a get-out by saying the deadline should apply only "when feasible." The Commission wants a deadline of 24 hours, also only "when feasible," while Parliament proposed notifying the relevant authority "without undue delay" but without specifying a time frame.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Council of the European UnionEuropean Data Protection Supervisorsecurityeuropean commissionlegislationgovernmentEuropean Parliamentprivacy

More about EUEuropean CommissionEuropean ParliamentIDGNewsTwitter

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Loek Essers

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place