Citizens' Privacy Jeopardized in EU Parliament Committees Again

*** UPDATE [01/03]: see the opinion of the ITRE committee on the proposal for a regulation on the protection of personal data ***

Paris, 21 February 2013 — One month after the terrible opinion vote of the “Consumers” (IMCO) Committee, MEPs from the “Industry” (ITRE) committee, and to a lesser extent from the “Employment” (EMPL) one, have also voted to weaken protection of EU citizens' privacy. In the ITRE committee, because of the support of Members of the liberal (ALDE) group, conservatives' amendments lifting restrictions on the collection, processing and resale of citizens' personal data by companies have been adopted. Before the “Legal Affairs” (JURI) committee's opinion vote1 and the main, crucial, “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) committee's report vote2, citizens should act and urge their MEPs to break away from big corporations' lobbying and to protect their fundamental right to privacy.

The revision of the European regulation concerning the protection of personal data, initiated by the European Commission in 2012, is ongoing. After the “Consumers” (IMCO) Committee opinion vote in January, the “Industry” (ITRE) and “Employment” (EMPL) committees have just voted their opinion on the draft report of the “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) committee. All three of them, have voted to water down the safeguards protecting our privacy, as corporate lobbies had hoped, although most of the EMPL committee opinion focused on measures concerning work. As shown on La Quadrature's wiki and by testimonies from MEPs, the lobbying pressure in the European Parliament from industrial actors has reached a state of unique intensity. As the website clearly shows, changes proposed by industry lobbyists are sometimes copy-pasted verbatim into amendments tabled by MEPs. These victories of corporations that collect, process and trade data on citizens are alarming and anyone concerned about their rights and freedoms should learn more and act.

In ITRE committee, votes by the Members of the liberal ALDE group3 helped amendments tabled by EPP and ECR conservatives to be adopted. Once more, these MEPs choose to support neutralising rules protecting citizens and adding vague and dangerous notions such as “pseudonimized data”4 as well as measures allowing for more profiling of citizens and less constraints on careless companies5.

The next step is the “Legal Affairs” (JURI) committee's opinion vote, led by ACTA's main proponent Marielle Gallo (France - EPP) and scheduled for the 18-19 March 2013. Following that, the main committee working on the Data Protection Regulation, the “Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee, led by Jan Philipp Albrecht (Germany - Greens/EFA), will vote on its report the 24-25th April 2013, taking into account the opinions expressed by the IMCO, ITRE, EMPL and JURI committees. The final LIBE committee report will call the whole European Parliament to vote during the first reading vote in plenary session, expected for the end of 2013. The further ahead this procedure moves, the less occasions citizens will have to reverse the current trend. They should therefore increase efforts to ensure that MEPs will finally vote to protect their rights.

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