EU under pressure to water down privacy laws

While Europeans guard their privacy as sacrosanct, it appears that the US feels that they should turn over all their personal data to the Land of the Fee.

The EU has been making some moves to tighten up data protection laws after fears, particularly in Germany, that US companies are abusing the data that they receive.

These moves have worried the US companies so much that they have been on the blower to their tame politicians. US republicanism means that if you have enough money to bribe a politican with campaign contributions you can force a sort of corporate imperialism on the rest of the world.

Apparently the US has been arm twisting the European Commission to water down its data privacy plans to allow Facebook and Google and its ilk to do what they want.

What particularly got the US corporations’ goat was the data protection directive and regulation which many US companies felt went too far. It proposed further enshrining the “right to be forgotten” in law, forcing companies to confess to data breaches within 24 hours and giving regulators the power to fine firms as much as two percent of their annual turnover for severe offences.

Some US lobbyists then went to extreme measures, according to concerned data privacy activists. The EC admitted that it was resisting the pressure from the US, and its Chamber of Commerce, and Facebook.

But it is not going all the way of the big corporations. There are some groups, across the pond, which have also been telling Brussels officials to press on with the plans.

EU efforts are being cheered on by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Centre for Digital Democracy, the Consumer Federation of America and Friends of Privacy US.

They are apparently descending on Brussels today and tomorrow, showing their support for the plans as they meet with various officials.

In many ways the reason is that such groups were crushed in the US by the actions of the well-funded lobby groups. However, in Europe, this is a little harder.

Much of the US corporate concern is over the recommendations of German Green Party MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht. It was suggested in Albrecht’s report that the right to be forgotten should be so tough that it would also be a right to erasure.

The report wanted to stop businesses from accessing people’s personal sensitive data unless they could prove their reasons were more important than the person’s privacy.

Albrecht also wanted people to be able to access their information and transfer it to other services.

Fortunately it is starting to look like the EU will make a stand on the issue. It will then start to get interesting.

Typically, the next stage of any US lobbying initiative will  be to complain that, by not allowing American companies access to European member’s data, the bloc is somehow creating a barrier to trade. If Europe’s plans go ahead, we’ll see how much merit there is to that claim.