ICO blog: Road to reform proves long and winding

As the saying goes – a week’s a long time in politics – so six weeks can feel more like a lifetime in the workings of the European Union’s political machine.

That’s how long it is since the agreement by the European Parliament’s (civil liberties) committee about how they’d like the proposed data protection reforms to look.

It was an agreement we’d hoped would prove to be a significant step forward on the long road to a new European data protection law. Six weeks on, that’s still our hope, but the road ahead looks ever more long and winding.

You’ll recall that the agreement by the European Parliament means two out of the three entities involved in agreeing the law have now taken their positions. The European Commission made the original proposal and the Parliament will now take its position into negotiations with the European Council.

Unfortunately those negotiations do not look imminent. The next stage is for the Council to adopt its own position. Here, we can only echo the Article 29 Working Party’s recent call for a swift adoption of the data protection package in the Council. While the start of the Greek Presidency of the EU in January may provide fresh impetus, time is running out for reaching agreement before the European Parliament elections in the middle of next year.

There’s no doubt reform is needed though. We remain committed to achieving the modernisation of the data protection framework that is necessary to reflect the way personal information is used today and will be used in the future.

With that in mind, we’ve looked carefully at the Parliament’s text, and produced a brief analysis of the key points. For us, it’s clear there’s been real progress in moving towards a proportionate text that delivers more effective rights for individuals – including greater control over their personal information – as well as clearer responsibilities for those that process information about them.
Nevertheless, many issues still require further attention and the Parliament’s text has raised some new concerns.

Whether our commentary feeds into the current debate or becomes relevant as the process continues beyond 2014 remains to be seen. What is crucial, though is that whenever these reforms happen, we get the detail right: the law we are working on today needs to be fit for tomorrow and beyond. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a positive outcome in the first half of next year but at this stage it’s more in hope than expectation.

We have now completed a comparative analysis of the European Commission text and the European Parliament’s LIBE (civil liberties) Committee amendments.

David SmithAs well as providing Data Protection leadership across the ICO, David Smith has direct responsibility for oversight of its Strategic Liaison Division which develops and manages the ICO’s relations with its key stakeholders.
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