Online Protection

Data Privacy Plan Gets Mixed Reviews

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The E.U.’s plan to tighten online data protection in the 28-nation bloc is getting mixed reviews, with advocates hailing a digital right to be forgotten and skeptics saying that loopholes will undermine its supposed benefits.

  • Facts


    • Companies would face fines of up to 4 percent of sales for data protection infractions.
    • The proposal would raise the minimum age for digital consent to 16 from 13 years old.
    • The E.U. Commission estimates the new plan, which still requires final approval, will save businesses €2.3 billion, or $2.5 billion, per year by eliminating red tape.
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Jean-Philipp Albrecht is happy – an emotion the German Green Party member had not experienced much over the last four years as the European Parliament’s lead negotiator on data protection reforms.

That’s understandable given the highly contentious nature of the data protection debate in Europe, where data “purists” battle with web businesses and the continent’s bloated government privacy bureacracy over the future of online trade.

Europe’s most recent update to the E.U.’s data protection directive attracted nearly 4,000 requests from lawmakers to change Mr. Albrecht’s reform. The German government, with its demands to protect companies from onerous regulation, was among the most vigorous in trying to shape the outcome.

Finally, on Tuesday night, Mr. Albrecht found his relief when the European Commission, the European Parliament and the heads of government from the bloc’s 28 countries reached a compromise he called “a giant step.”

Internet users and data protection advocates in Germany, where deep-rooted privacy concerns helped propel the reforms, had reason to share Mr. Albrecht’s euphoria.

After all, the new regulations represent a significant improvement for data protection.

Now enshrined is a legal “right to be forgotten” for Internet users wishing to delete information on the Web, and new consumer protections over how their personal online data can be processed, as well as simplified procedures for filing complaints with companies that conduct illegal “data mining.”

“The agreement over data protection reform is good news for data protection in Europe,” said Andrea Vosshoff, a German government spokesperson on data protection issues.

The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, praised the reform as “progress for Germany and Europe” that would strengthen the ability of individuals to control their personal information on the Internet.

But reactions from the business community – both in Germany and abroad in Europe and in the United States – are decidedly mixed, and often negative.

Internet companies, which closely watched the negotiations, wanted more lax data protections. Now it appears that at least some of their fears have become reality.

The rules will affect big Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google and Facebook, which previously sidestepped Europe’s stricter national data protection policies by locating in countries with the weakest regulations.

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