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    Update on European Union Proposal to Reform Data Protection Rules

    In January, the European Commission announced a proposal for a comprehensive reform of the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive. In a press release, the Commission explained, “Technological progress and globalisation have profoundly changed the way our data is collected, accessed and used. In addition, the 27 EU Member States have implemented the 1995 rules differently, resulting in divergences in enforcement. A single law will do away with the current fragmentation.” The proposals included “a Regulation setting out a general EU framework for data protection and a Directive on protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities.”

    Now, the European Data Protection Supervisor has released an opinion (EDPS pdf; archive pdf) on the data protection reform package. Here’s information from the executive summary:

    The EDPS welcomes the proposed Regulation as it constitutes a huge step forward for data protection in Europe. The proposed rules will strengthen the rights of individuals and make controllers more accountable for how they handle personal data. Furthermore, the role and powers of national supervisory authorities (alone and together) are effectively reinforced.

    The EDPS is particularly pleased to see that the instrument of a regulation is proposed for the general rules on data protection. The proposed Regulation would be directly applicable in the Member States and would do away with many complexities and inconsistencies stemming from the different implementing laws of the Member States currently in place.

    The EDPS is, however, seriously disappointed with the proposed Directive for data protection in the law enforcement area. The EDPS regrets that the Commission has chosen to regulate this matter in a self-standing legal instrument which provides for an inadequate level of protection, which is greatly inferior to the proposed Regulation.

    A positive element of the proposed Directive is that it covers domestic processing, and thus has a wider scope than the current Framework Decision. However, this improvement only has added value if the Directive substantially increases the level of data protection in this area, which is not the case.

    The main weakness of the package as a whole is that it does not remedy the lack of comprehensiveness of the EU data protection rules. It leaves many EU data protection instruments unaffected such as the data protection rules for the EU institutions and bodies, but also all specific instruments adopted in the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters such as the Prüm Decision and the rules on Europol and Eurojust. Furthermore, the proposed instruments taken together do not fully address factual situations which fall under both policy areas, such as the use of PNR or telecommunication data for law enforcement purposes.

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