The European Commission Releases Important Privacy Proposals

In order to address ubiquitous privacy and data concerns, the European Commission (“EC”) has recently set forth a comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union. It is anticipated that these proposals will substantially revise the European Union’s (“EU”) 1995 Data Protection Directive, followed by proposed legislation in the year 2011.

The modernization of the EU framework for privacy protection regulations will focus upon certain key goals, most notably, the development of a comprehensive and coherent approach guaranteeing that the fundamental right to privacy for individuals is fully respected within the EU, and beyond. The new challenges for the protection of personal data include:

1. Addressing the impact of new technologies;

2. Enhancing the internal market dimension of data protection;

3. Addressing globalization and improving international data transfers;

4. Providing a stronger institutional arrangement for the effective enforcement of data protection rules, and

5. Improving the coherence of the protection legal framework.

The key objectives of the comprehensive approach include:

1. Strengthening individuals’ rights (ensuring appropriate protection for individuals in all circumstances, increasing transparency and control over data, raising awareness, ensuring informed and free consent, protecting sensitive information, and making remedies & sanctions more effective);

2. Enhancing the internal marketing dimension (increasing legal certainty and providing a level playing field for data controllers, reducing the administrative burden, clarifying the rules on applicable law and Member States’ responsibility, enhancing data controllers’ responsibility, and encouraging self-regulatory initiatives and exploring EU certification schemes);

3. Revising the rules in the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters;

4. The global dimension of protection (clarifying and simplifying the rules for international data transfers and promoting universal principles);

5. A stronger institutional arrangement for better enforcement of protection rules.

A high-end and uniform level of data protection within the EU will be the best way of endorsing and promoting EU standards globally.