Personal data protection: EU sends worrying signal to civil rights groups, e-tailers

On October 19, the EU Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties adopted a report by Estonian MEP Marju Lauristin on privacy and personal data protection. The document is a source of concern for both European e-tail companies and civil liberty organisations.


The European Parliament in Brussels - AFP

The French advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, a champion of the rights and freedom of citizens on the internet, criticized the report, saying it endorses the sale of the personal data of European web users. La Quadrature du Net was quick to scoff at MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who talked about "a well-balanced compromise."

The association pointed the finger at two proposals which "would only benefit US corporations and monopolistic businesses."

The group authorises websites to "track [users] without [their] consent in order to 'measure the website's audience'," and to "track [users’] phones and other devices no matter where."

E-commerce Europe, the body which brings together the various European e-commerce federations, was equally disturbed by the report adopted by the EU Parliament.

"We have always campaigned for a well-balanced legal framework for the protection of privacy, in order to safeguard the confidentiality of electronic communications without thwarting the technology innovations which can benefit both consumers and e-tailers," said the association's General Secretary, Margreet Lommerts, adding that "unfortunately, the report adopted [by the EU Parliament] is a missed opportunity with regards to the introduction of an ePrivacy framework consistent with modern e-commerce."

According to the e-tail industry, the report is at odds with the marketing advances made technologically possible by online sales. The EU's decisions could then act as a long-term brake on the innovation taking place in the e-tail sector, something which would logically benefit non-European players not bound by the same regulations. According to E-commerce Europe, Brussels is quite simply "lagging behind the realities of the business."

All eyes are now turned towards the EU Parliament, which is expected to put the report to the vote of the plenary assembly, as demanded by the European Conservatives and Reformists parliamentary group, which believes that a question of this importance cannot be settled at committee level. Also, the regulations which would issue from the report are currently being debated, and could still undergo substantial modifications.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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