Data protection 
Safeguarding your privacy 

Society  Updated: 

How is Europe protecting your personal data? Discover the European Parliament’s work on data protection, internet privacy and mass surveillance (PRISM).


An open tin can with an electronic card inside        

New technologies allow us to stay connected on the run and to keep in touch with our friends, but they also pose new threats to our privacy. Since 2012 MEPs have been working on an overhaul of EU data protection legislation to ensure people stay in control of their personal information in the digital world. MEPs formally approved the package in April 2016.

Data protection keyboard        
Press Releases 

Press Releases 

New EU data protection rules which aim to give citizens back control of their personal data and create a high, uniform level of data protection across the EU fit for the digital era was given their final approval by MEPs on Thursday. The reform also sets minimum standards on use of data for policing and judicial purposes.

ITW with MEP Moraes        

Mass surveillance has been in the spotlight ever since Edward Snowden brought it to journalists’ attention in 2013. This week the civil liberties committee adopted a resolution saying too little has been done to protect people's privacy, while MEPs discussed the Safe Harbour ruling during plenary on Wednesday. We gathered questions from EP’s Facebook page fans and presented them to UK S&D member Claude Moraes, chair of the civil liberties committee and the member in charge of this topic.

As the last lap of talks begins between the EU institutions, Jan Philipp Albrecht tells us why he thinks the new law would be a huge boost to EU companies doing business online.

Parliament and the Council are set to embark on informal talks to come up with a compromise on a reform of data protection rules. Although MEPs already adopted their position in March 2014, member states have only agreed an approach now. We talked to German Greens/EFA MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who will be leading negotiations on behalf of Parliament, what the benefit of the new rules will be for consumers and companies and what issues still need to be resolved.



Press Releases 

Parliament's consent to the EU-US trade deal "could be endangered" if blanket mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) does not stop, MEPs said on Wednesday, in a resolution wrapping up their six-month inquiry into US mass surveillance schemes. The text also calls on the EU to suspend its bank data deal with the US and the “Safe Harbour agreement” on data privacy. The fight against terrorism can never justify secret and illegal mass surveillance, it adds.

MEPs voted in new rules to strengthen citizens' control over their own data        
Press Releases 

Press Releases 

MEPs inserted stronger safeguards for EU citizens’ personal data that gets transferred to non-EU countries in a major overhaul of the EU’s data protection laws voted on Wednesday. The new rules aim both to give people more control over their personal data and to make it easier for firms to work across borders, by ensuring that the same rules apply in all EU member states. MEPs also increased the fines to be imposed on firms that break the rules, to up to €100 million or 5% of global turnover.

Binary code        

Twenty years counts as an eternity in technology. Current data protection rules date back nearly two decades so an update is urgently required. Not only has technology significantly evolved, but also the way we process and use data has changed. On 11 March Parliament discusses a legislative package that will bring about more control and security online, modernising standards and introducing new rules for companies and national authorities. MEPs will then vote on the plans on 12 March.

Interview with Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor        

It might be data protection day on 28 January, but there is precious little to celebrate. “Unfortunately, we are getting used to free services online, in exchange to which the silent deal is that the user is to be transparent," warns Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor. "We need to be more critical." Mr Hustinx's job is to ensure that the European institutions and bodies respect the right to privacy and develop new policies. We asked him about the challenges to overcome.



A magnify lens and the NSA logo ©BELGA/DPA/N.Armer        

Conclusion time: after months of investigating mass surveillance by the NSA in Europe, the EP inquiry has finished penning its findings. The inquiry was launched last year in the wake of revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Showden and involved more than 15 hearings with representatives of EU institutions, national parliaments, the US Congress, IT firms, NGOs and journalists. The civil liberties committee votes on the draft report on 12 February. Read on to discover what MEPs found out.

Network cables. ©BELGA/AFP/T.Coex        
Press Releases 

Press Releases 

The EU should suspend its Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) agreement with the US in response to the US National Security Agency's alleged tapping of EU citizens' bank data held by the Belgian company SWIFT, says a non-binding resolution voted by Parliament on Wednesday.

Claude Moraes        

Allegations of the US conducting a mass surveillance of Europeans continue to affect EU-US relations with some fearing it could jeopardise the ongoing free-trade agreement talks. Led by Claude Moraes, the EP's civil liberties committee launched an inquiry to find out the truth. Members from the civil liberties and foreign affairs committees met with US representatives in Washington at the end of October to discuss the allegations. We asked Mr Moraes about their findings.

Magnifying glass on email symbol © BELGA_MONKEY        

US surveillance of the internet: major threat to people's privacy or a storm in a tea cup? Opinions have been divided in discussions on our social media platforms. While the Parliament conducts an inquiry to discover the truth about the revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, find out what the people affected have had to say about it.



a line of  computer servers        

Concerns about privacy feature high on the EP agenda this week. On Monday evening, the civil liberties committee voted to strengthen EU data protection rules and to demand heavier fines for non-compliance. On Wednesday, the Parliament will have to take a stand on whether the EU-US agreement on the transfer of data handled by the SWIFT payment network should be suspended following allegations of internet surveillance by US authorities.

Network cables hanging in front of a computer screen showing the logo of the US National Security Agency        

The US should come clean over allegations that is has been spying on the EU and its people, the majority of political groups said in a debate on Prism on 3 July. However, they disagreed on whether the revelations should affect negotiations for a transatlantic free trade agreement. Some MEPs stressed the need for facts before judging and pointed out that surveillance was necessary to safeguard people's security. There is also an urgent need to beef up EU data protection rules, most agreed.

Transfer form for international transfers with IBAN and SWIFT-Code. ©BELGA-IMAGEBROKER        

Are allegations of the NSA misusing SWIFT banking data true and if so, should this lead to cooperation on terrorism being suspended? These are the questions dealt with during the third hearing of the civil liberties committee's inquiry into the electronic mass surveillance of Europeans on 24 September. If the SWIFT allegations are proved true, it could have consequences for the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking (TFTP) programme, which aims to detect terrorist plots and the people involved.

Data centre        

Europe cannot allow Americans to spy on its citizens, which is why setting up new data protection legislation is so urgent, according to the majority of the EP's civil liberties committee. The committee discussed the Prism internet surveillance scandal with justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Wednesday. The commissioner said data protection rules should apply to all companies operating in the EU, regardless of where their headquarters was based.


(Video duration:) 


Interview with Dimitrios Droutsas        

Allegations of US surveillance of Europe have rocked relations between the two just when negotiations on a transatlantic free-trade agreement were due to begin. Parliament has launched an inquiry into the Prism scandal, but many MEPs agree it will be challenging to restore trust between the two partners. We discussed the issue with former Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas, a member of the S&D group who is responsible for steering new cross border data processing rules through Parliament.

Network calbles - ©BELGA/MAXPPP/S.BELLOUMI        
Press Releases 

Press Releases 

Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee will conduct an "in-depth inquiry" into the US surveillance programmes, including the bugging of EU premises and other spying allegations, and present its results by the end of this year, says a resolution passed by the full House on Thursday. Parliament's President and political group leaders formally confirmed the launch of the inquiry. MEPs also call for more protection for whistleblowers.

Prism debate        

MEPs criticised a secret American programme to gather user data and questioned the implications for privacy, data protection and EU-US security collaboration. Parliament held a debate on the Prism programme on Tuesday morning after the Guardian and the Washington Post revealed its existence over the weekend. Most speakers roundly condemned the programme and the US's assurances that only non-Americans were targeted, but insisted on the value for Europe of security cooperation with the US.

Infographic about data protection        

Cloud computing poses a larger threat to your privacy than you might think, according to an EP study. Europe marks today annual data protection day, an initiative to raise awareness of how people's personal information is collected and processed and how to best protect your private lives. The EP is currently looking at plans to update current European rules on data protection to bring them in line with the latest technological developments and prevent misuse of private data.


Jan Philipp Albrecht        

How safe is your personal data online? German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht is currently steering a proposal to beef up existing EU data protection rules through Parliament, which will put people back in control of their own information. He revealed more details on what's coming up during a chat with our Facebook fans on 22 May and even gave participants practical tips on how to protect themselves against abuse of their personal data.

infographic on data protection        

Sometimes, it is just so tempting. You fall madly in love, get angry, or drunk, and you want to tell the whole world - so you put it on Facebook. You put your address and telephone number on the internet when you buy something. Your doctor has your medical record in an online database. You share thoughts and data online without even thinking about it. But what if you want to remove them?

10 tips for protecting your privacy online        

The European Parliament is working to improve the protection of Europeans' personal data online. But there are already a lot of things you can do today to avoid identity theft or letting others get access to the things you want to remain private.

Data protection        

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.


data protection infographic        

It's something we all worry about: 76% of Europeans are concerned that their personal data is not safe in the hands of private companies. To call attention to the issue, European Data Protection Day is marked every year on 28 January. MEPs are currently working on beefing up European rules on data protection to ensure people's data are safe online. Find out the facts in our infographic.