The upcoming review of the European Data Protection Legal Framework (which dates back to 1995) is a hot topic on the policy agenda of many businesses operating in Europe today. As Commissioner Reding, in charge of the revision process, stated: “Clear and consistent data protection rules are needed to bring our laws up to date with the challenges raised by new technologies and globalization”. Many questions have yet to be answered: How should personal data be protected in a globalised world with the ever growing challenges of new technologies? What data will be accessible and processed by governments and private companies? How will international transfers of personal data be regulated in the era of “cloud computing”? Different businesses have different interests at stake and top business executives are already actively lobbying EU institutions in the wake of what promises to be a gripping 2-year legislative process. Stakeholders interested cover a wide spectrum of business actors ranging from the Telecommunications, Advertising, Car Manufacturing, Pharmaceutical, Travel and Tourism sectors – to name a few.
In an ‘all digital age’ where it is estimated that a European citizen’s personal data is listed, in average, on 2,000 different databases, the implementation of a clear legal framework is crucial for both consumer protection and European competitiveness. In November 2010, the Commission adopted a Communication putting forward its main ideas on how to revise the current rules protecting its citizens’ personal data. Following this Communication, a public consultation was open until 15 January 2011 for all stakeholders to have a say. Next steps for the Commission will be to put forward a proposal simultaneously to the Council of Ministers and European Parliament in current 2011. In the meantime, the Parliament is already preparing a report which will feed into the European policy debate and shape upcoming legislation.