Updated European data protection laws

EU citizens will be empowered to delete their personal online data. Privacy policies will require clear language and profiling capabilities for online services will be limited.

How did we get here?

The EU’s data protection laws are 20 years old and were overhauled to keep up with the fast developments in information technologies, globalisation and the growing use of personal data in law enforcement. If a company or institution violates or misuses personal data there were no penalty fees or repercussions. There was no common legislation for Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Online Service across countries. This status quo is not acceptable for a functioning and safe online presence.


Why is this important for me?

The goal of this legislation is to streamline and update the different as well as outdated data protection laws in the 28 EU Member States, which were put in place before the internet reached this critical mass of users and data. Citizens shall get a better protection of their personal data and a number of new rights. Businesses will benefit from a common, mostly harmonized set of rules across the EU.


What's the content?

The European Parliament wants to guarantee users the right to have personal data erased or returned to them and it will get easier to transfer your data between service providers. New limits on ‘profiling’, i.e. predicting a person's performance at work, or an individual's economic situation, location, sex, etc., shall be put in place.

Parliament also demanded that any internet service provider who wants to process personal data has to obtain the freely given, well-informed and explicit consent of the person concerned by using clear and plain language to explain these privacy policies. Yet, Member States supported the concept of "unambigous consent" and won the battle over this particular issue.

The European Parliament was asking for penalty fines of up to 100 million Euro or 5% of annual global turnover for companies that break these rules. Commission and Member States wanted to cap the fines at 2% of annual global turnover. In the end negotiators agreed on 4%.

The same rules will apply for all 28 Member States. Companies based outside of Europe, such as Facebook or Google, will also have to apply the same rules when offering services in the EU - just as EU-based companies.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

While Parliament agreed on its position in March 2014, the Council reached an agreement in June 2015. The negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Commission, the so-called Trialogue, were wrapped in December 2015. In April 2016 the Council and the Parliament finally confirmed the deal by a formal vote, the final text was published in May. Now Member States have two years to adapt their national data protection rules (actually this is a regulation that applies directly, but there are a number of opening clauses that need to be transposed in national law). At the same time businesses and consumers can get used to their new rights and obligations. 


Related Bills:

Use of Flight Passenger Data

Eliminating roaming, securing net neutrality

Cross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroad

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