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March 01, 2013 | Peter Bradwell

Another important privacy vote in the European Parliament

We need your help to remind MEPs that they should support stronger data protection rules.


Members of the European Parliament are in the process of shaping a new Data Protection Regulation, which was proposed by the European Commission last January. A number of Committees in the Parliament are giving their opinions, which will influence what the final law might look like. (Full text of the proposed Regulation (pdf))

The original proposals from the Commission were very promising, offering much stronger privacy rights and a stricter regime to make sure those that collect and use personal data play by the rules. This sort of update to data protection law is badly needed. We have produced a short guide to the issues

As we've written about before, however, our privacy rights are now in danger. Lobbying from industry and the US and UK Government is threatening to see the proposals seriously weakened. On February 20th, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (the 'ITRE' Committee) agreed on some disastrous amendments that would weaken our privacy rights, not strengthen them.

The ITRE MEPs voted to weaken the meaning of consent, narrowed the definition of personal information so certain types have less protection, and opened up a loophole that will allow companies to use data for purposes unrelated to the original collection. That would mean companies could pass information on to third parties, who could then use it for purposes unrelated to the originally collection, so long as they believe it is in their own 'legitimate interest'. That completely undermines people's ability to control how their personal information is used.

Another important vote - and how you can help

On March 18th-19th, the JURI Committee (Legal Affairs) will vote on their opinion. We need your help reminding MEPs in the Committee that they should support stronger privacy rights in this vote. Please write to your MEP and let them know this matters to you!

There are two UK MEPs on the JURI Committee.

If you live in the North West of England, you should contact your MEP Sajjad Karim:

  • Party: Conservative
  • Contact Tel (Brussels): +3222845640
  • E-mail: sajjad.karim@europarl.europa.eu
  • MEP Karim is active in Twitter so that may be a good way to reach him: @SHKMEP

If you live in Yorkshire and the Humber, you should contact your MEP Rebecca Taylor:

  • Party: Liberal Democrats
  • Contact Tel (Brussels): +3222845201
  • E-mail: rebecca.taylor@europarl.europa.eu

If you don't live in either of these constituencies, it is still helpful for you to write to your MEP and tell them that you want to see a strong Data Protection Regulation. You can easily write to your MEP using our tool.

Remember, you should try to put your email in your own words, and please be polite - they are more likely to pay attention! 

If you have note been in touch with your MEP before about this, you could highlight that this is a unique opportunity to promote citizens' rights to privacy and data protection. People need to be given more control over their information, and we need to make sure companies play by the rules. By voting to give us stronger privacy rights for they will be helping make that happen.

More detail on the JURI vote

You may wish to go into more detail - we're here to help if you do. The Committee is considering some specific amendments to the Regulation. We have produced an overview of the top amendments that we think your MEP should support or reject. EDRi have also produced an analysis of all of the amendments. For more information on what this vote in JURI is about, see the campaign site put together by EDRi. For general information about the Regulation, we have produced a quick guide to the issues.

Background: what is being proposed?

The Data Protection Regulation, put forward in January 2012, would give you more control over your personal information and help make sure businesses that handle data play by the rules. It strengthens the right to consent to data collection and processing; it would give you stronger rights to access your data and have it deleted; and it would make sure companies are more accountable for their mistakes or abuses when handling personal information. It is a badly needed update to the existing, weak law. 

What is happening now?

The proposed Regulation is currently being looked at by a number of Committees in the European Parliament. The 'lead' Committee is the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE). They will write an opinion that includes suggested changes to the Regulation. That will influence the final big vote in the European Parliament later in the year. The LIBE Committee have to take into account the opinion of several other Committees when they write their report. That means the votes in the other Committees are really important.

What is the problem?

The Regulation is coming under sustained lobbying attack from technology companies, the US Government, the ad industry, the UK Government and even the UK's Information Commissioner. They are all suggesting changes that would undermine your control over your personal information and weaken the obligations on the people who collect and use it.

A number of 'amendments' to the law have been written by industry lobbyists, and our concern is that citizens' interests are not being given a fair hearing. We have an analysis of what these amendments mean for privacy. Lots of the amendments that the Committee will vote on would make the Regulation significantly weaker. We need to make sure the MEPs understand people care about this issue, and that they should be supporting their constituents.

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