EU Parliamentarians speak candidly about Data Protection Regulation | DMA

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EU Parliamentarians speak candidly about Data Protection Regulation


(pictured: Sebastien Houze, secretary general of FEDMA, speaking at the event)

A FEDMA meeting in Strasbourg on Wednesday 7 October showed the polarised views of some of the participants in the ongoing trilogue negotiations.

FEDMA, together with 19 other industry organisations, gathered at a data protection event in Strasbourg, France. Present were three rapporteurs working on the Data Protection Regulation, Jan Philip Albrecht MEP, Axel Voss MEP and Marju Lauristin MEP.

The polarised views of Albrecht and Voss showed just how divergent opinions were within the EU Parliament.

Albrecht, a German MEP representing the Greens, chose to focus his speech on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the Safe Harbour Agreement and how that decision demonstrated urgent need for a harmonised framework for data protection across Europe. Conspicuous was Albrecht’s lack of focus on how the regulation will encourage economic growth. Estonian MEP Marju Lauristin made points similar in tone to Albrecht, and emphasised that the regulation was not about data but protecting citizens’ rights.

German MEP Axel Voss, representing the centre-right EPP Group, took a different opinion and explained that Europe is in a new world where data will drive economic growth. This echoes the views of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she said it consumer data and not manufacturing which is the primary driver of added value. Mr Voss does not believe that the debate in the Parliament is taking this into account. He highlighted the importance of simple legal solutions for businesses to access consumer data which still protected the privacy rights of citizens. In his opinion consent was not a panacea and treating it such risks missing the huge opportunities the data revolution could provide.

Secretary general of FEDMA Sebastien Houze, addressed the assembled MEPs. He said: “it is crucial that the EU provides business with simple solutions, easy to understand and implement, avoiding grey areas in the legislation”.

He said the one-to-one marketing industry relies on the use of consumer data, which allows businesses to provide consumers with relevant and timely marketing that directly benefits them. No one wants a return to the scatter gun marketing of a bygone era.

Houze then delved further into the nitty gritty of the Data Protection Regulation and made points similar to those of Mr Voss. He considered the importance of maintaining a robust legitimate interest clause in the regulation.

Legitimate interest is a key legal basis for businesses to process consumer data. “It is counterintuitive to think that restricting the legitimate interest of the data controller and strengthening the concept of consent will protect more the individual. All legal grounds for data processing are interdependent and touching one will impact the other. Narrowing the legitimate interest in the law will only put too much emphasis on consent and contract as basis for processing data, under the responsibility of the data subject, and this is not a workable solution,” he said.

FEDMA and the DMA continue to lobby the trilogue proceedings in Brussels and at home in the UK. This event shows that there is still time to turn the tide in the debate. Views within the Parliament are divergent so there is considerable room for influence.

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