Data protection: the key issues 

 
 

The data protection package is an ambitious EU initiative that aims to ensure the right to privacy continues to be respected in our rapidly evolving world. It addresses a broad range of issues, including the right to have your information deleted, the need for explicit consent to use data and companies using an analysis of your data to predict your behaviour. Here is a brief overview. Click on the link for the background note on the right for even more details.

Right to be forgotten


The European Commission proposes that people should be able to ask to have their data deleted if they no longer want them to be processed. However, some MEPs have proposed to leave this out of the legislation as they see it as unenforceable.


Explicit consent


The Commission proposes that a company should only be able to process personal information after getting permission from the person in question. The permission could then be withdrawn at any time. German green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who is in charge of steering the proposal through Parliament, wants the EP to clarify that the consent only applies for the original stated reason for collecting the data.


Profiling


Companies can use automated processing of people's data to analyse and predict their economic situation, location, health, preferences, their performance at work, reliability or behaviour. Mr Albrecht wants to allow this practice only in some clearly defined cases or if if consent has been given.


Other issues


Under the Commission proposal companies and public authorities would be required to clearly explain their data protection policies and have a data protection officer if they have at least 250 employees. Mr Albrecht proposes to change this to companies that process data of at least 500 people a year. The Commission wants to introduce penalties for breaching these rules of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the company's global annual turnover.


There are also plans to update the directive on processing data to prevent, investigate, detect or prosecute criminal offences or enforce criminal penalties. The legislation deals with issues such as profiling, explicit consent, clear language and a data protection officer to data protection by law enforcement and judicial authorities in criminal matters


Next steps


The civil liberties committee, which is in charge of dealing with the legislative package, is expected to vote on the proposals in the autumn of 2013. MEPs will then start negotiations with the Council. The aim is to adopt the legislation before the next European elections in spring 2014.