Will You Let Protection of Your Data Go Down the Drain?

Brussels, 19 March 2013 — The “Legal Affairs” (JURI) Committee, the fourth and last one on this matter, had just voted its opinion on the European Commission's proposal of data protection regulation, led by Marielle Gallo (France - EPP). With this latest opinion vote, slightly less catastrophic than the previous ones, the European Parliament weakened once again the protection of citizen's personal data. Members of the four committees who gave their opinion chose to side with giant US corporations such as Facebook and Google that collect, process and trade data about our everyday life. Citizen mobilization is slowly starting to bear fruit, yet it must be tremendously amplified before the crucial vote of the main “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) Committee -[EDIT: probably on 29 May]- on its report.

Marielle Gallo

Once again, Marielle Gallo (France - PPE) chose to protect business interests rather than citizens' rights, and led the “Legal Affairs” (JURI) Committee to vote an opinion weakening the initial proposal by the European Commission to protect citizens' privacy. Amendments by Marielle Gallo and her conservative colleagues (helped by most Members of the liberal (ALDE) group) call for instance for allowing companies to process citizens' personal data and transmit them to third parties who can do whatever they want with them, if they claim it is their “legitimate interest”1. Some other adopted amendments call for the processing of data for uses incompatible with the original data collection2 and introduce all kinds of loopholes.

Thus, this vote follows the line of the “Consumers” (IMCO) vote of January, and of the “Industry” (ITRE) and “Employment's” (EMPL) votes of February, which already include most of the demands of the industry lobbies and jeopardized the protections initially laid down by proposal of the European Commission.

Still, all previous votes including this one were only opinion votes, with no legislative value. The next vote in the main “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) Committee, [EDIT: probably on 29 May], will be the real decisive step that will determine if the EU will allow a full control of their personal data by citizens or a US-like regime where corporations can do anything they want, and process, store, sell citizens data without any constraint.

Yet, today's vote was slightly less catastrophic than previous ones, demonstrating that the Members of the European Parliament may be sensitive to the citizen mobilization and pressure from the media, and that they will only protect our right to privacy if we push them hard to do so. Before the LIBE vote, citizens must mobilize and contact their MEPs.

“Crucial stakes about our privacy and the future of online economy will be played in the main 'Civil Liberties' Committee. By increasing pressure on their elected representatives, citizens can put them in front of their responsibilities and impose that Facebook, Google and such gigantic corporations are not given an 'open bar' access to their personal data. We must retain control of our data, as it is our way to keep control of our lives online. All we be played between now and the upcoming European elections.” concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

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