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European Data Protection Supervisor urges progress on e-privacy

Joint IIC - Italian Chapter and Agcom workshop

Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, has written that a “swarm of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounds the case for revising our rules on the confidentiality of electronic communications, otherwise known as e-privacy. It’s high time for some honest debunking.” The European Parliament and the Council are working hard to finalise negotiations on a number of Commission proposals which are important to the future of data protection and digital rights generally, he says. These include the proposals on cross-border access to electronic evidence and terrorist content on the web, and e-privacy is the “indispensable missing piece of the jigsaw”. Buttarelli explains that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulates data protection, not the privacy of communications, and that the adoption of the proposed e-privacy regulation is crucial to protect the fundamental rights to privacy and the protection of personal data in the digital age. “Progress must be made quickly to allow legal certainty and a level playing field for market operators. It is also necessary to complete the EU’s framework for data protection and confidentiality of communications.” The GDPR is not enough to change the predominant business model of surveillance, he notes: “2018 will go down as the year that the world realised that data is not secure and its use also brings disadvantages, not just benefits. Data is not secure even when processed by the technologically most advanced and financially powerful resourced companies on the planet. The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations are still under investigation in Europe and America, but they are only the tip of the iceberg, a sign of a much wider problem and a symptom of many more problems still unnoticed.” To create a digital environment in which users can feel safe, it is necessary that abusive, trust-corroding practices are robustly tackled with clear rules, he says. He also explains that not all communications providers are required to give people control over their most intimate data; that e-privacy will help fix, not exacerbate, digital market imbalances, and Buttarelli notes that the chair of the European Data Protection Board was invited to testify before the US Senate, which held a hearing on data protection law. “While the Senate hearing may be seen in the context of the coming US elections, it also reflects an increasing anxiety in the US that its lack of comprehensive privacy legislation may become a disadvantage in economic terms… This is the moment for Europe to consolidate its lead in developing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for a democratic society and provide a sustainable model for other economies. The world’s data protection and privacy commissioners have discussed privacy, data protection and AI over the last couple of years, and will issue guidance. Europe should press on and reconcile technology to the principle of democracy and rule of law. A strong e-privacy regulation, adopted as soon as possible, will create legal certainty and incentivise investments in that direction.” Read more

  • Monday, 22 October 2018

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