Protection of personal data

EESC opinion: Protection of personal data

Key points:

  • Electronic communications networks have expanded considerably since Directives 95/46/EC and 2002/58/EC on the protection of privacy of natural and legal persons in the electronic communications sector. However, it is above all the appearance of new players in the data-processing sector, over and above internet access providers, which must lead to a review of the relevant texts. Big Data has become a currency, and the smart processing thereof means that natural and legal persons can be "profiled", their data "marketed" and money made, often without a user's knowledge. Data being generated continuously means that all users are traceable and identifiable everywhere. Data processing carried out in centres which are mostly located physically outside Europe is a cause for concern.
  • The Committee welcomes the fact that a coherent package of rules is being put in place simultaneously throughout the EU to protect the rights of natural and legal persons linked to the usage of digital data by means of electronic communications. On another hand, each Member State remains responsible for data retention and transfer, and there is no harmonisation because of possible restrictions on rights introduced by the proposal. The Committee points to the risk of disparities resulting from the fact that such restrictions would be at the discretion of Member States. The EESC regrets that the proposal is voluminous and entangled, difficult to read and highly complex, hence counter to the spirit of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme, and to the "Better Regulation" objective. Its added value is not evident to the public.
  • A large set of recommendations is presented in the Opinion to be taken into account by the Commission, among others that priorities linked to this regulation should include the education of users as well as anonymisation and encryption. The EESC also advocates the creation of a European portal where all the European and national texts, rights, appeals procedures, case law and practical aspects are brought together in one place and kept up to date so as to help the public at large and consumers find their way through the maze of texts and practices so they can exercise their rights. The Committee also recommends that a factsheet is published online with a description of the texts for the general public which makes them accessible for everyone.