Talks which will determine the way in which private data is handled and secured by the European Union (EU) and the US, in the fight against international organised crime and terrorism, are set to begin.
The procession towards the talks was put in motion by the European Commission (EC) back in May this year and the goal is to ensure that the storage, transfer and use of data enacted as part of the collaborative partnership, will be secure and respectful of basic rights.
While the authorities from many international countries will gain access to various types of data, more power will be given to individual citizens within the EU, allowing people to access any data which relates to them and delete entries after a given time period, to help protect their privacy without compromising national security.
VP of the EC Viviane Reding said that EU citizens have a right to see that their personal data is properly secured. She also explained that now the negotiations can get underway and the EU will do its best to ensure that the cooperation with the US does not directly contravene any of these basic rights relating to personal data.
This week the first leg of talks will begin in Washington. It was the September 11th attacks of 2001 which meant that the US and EU collaborated more closely on sharing data to fight terrorism, but recently a campaign to better protect the rights of individuals in relation to this sharing, meant that the EU has sought to redress the way in which US agencies can access and use this data.
The EC said that it hopes to unify the way in which data is protected on both sides of the Atlantic and make sure that EU inhabitants will be able to take action based on the regulations relating to data protection wherever their personal information is stored and used.
The talks will be a step in the right direction, but the EC has said that each data transfer will be treated individually and require a specific legal basis in each case.
Peter Hustinx, the man who carries the title of European Data Protection Supervisor, has called for the European Commission (EC) to look at the current legislation which governs the handling of data across the continent and update any of the rulings which have become irrelevant over time.
Mr Hustinx said that with a massive expansion in the amount of private data being handled by businesses and public sector organisations, it is necessary to review laws in this field and make sure that average people are not put at risk because the existing laws do not offer adequate protection.
Mr Hustinx was keen to point out that data protection has an effect on day to day life for hundreds of millions of Europeans, while also being influential on economic fluctuations, national security and the level of trust which ruling bodies are able to command.
It is recognised that data protection is a significant area requiring sustained attention from the international community. Mr Hustinx argues that no plan for the future can be considered too ambitious in the face of such responsibilities relating to data.
Experts believe that the best way to make sure that EU nations are able to protect private data and enforce the relevant legislation, is to make sure that there is greater unity in the international rules. This would include the required reporting of data loss and security breach incidents, as well as the integration of privacy into the very heart of modern storage solutions.
Neutrality and the cooperation of law enforcement and law makers must also be sought in this battle to protect data, according to Mr Hustinx.
The EC recently published a strategy document outlining the contemporary data protection legislation and calling on experts in the field and those with a vested interest to respond.
Key to the EC’s recommendations is the idea that all EU citizens should have the right to call for personal data to be deleted once it has served its use. The UK is implicated in this whole discussion as the EC is unhappy with its current lack of effort to comply with EU rulings which cover privacy of communication by electronic means.
The private data of millions of people in the UK is inadequately protected and the government needs to do more in order to ensure that its integrity is not compromised, according to a new report from the European Commission (EC).
The EC has said that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) still lacks the powers that are necessary to tackle the serious issues surrounding data protection and security and it has called on the government to instigate the necessary legislative changes to ensure that this is rectified.
The EC has given the government a two month grace period in which it must ensure that there is full compliance with European law on data protection.
There needs to be greater transparency in the operation of bodies such as the ICO, according to the EC’s Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. He wants data protection laws enforced in the UK with no ambiguity whatsoever in order to ensure that the universal right to data privacy is upheld in both the public and private sectors.
Mr Reding described the ICO as a guard dog that is kept locked in a cellar, effectively rendering it impotent and thus of little or no consequence to those who would fail to protect data.
The EC said that it would like to change the UK rules which deny people the right to the amendment or deletion of personal information and it would also require that any random checks made by the ICO could be used to hand out penalties for non-compliance with data protection legislation.
The ICO said that it was looking forward to working with the EC in order to appropriately address its concerns with the state of data protection in the UK.
If the UK government fails to satisfy the EC, the next stage could see it being brought before the Court of Justice, whereafter further steps might be taken.
The ICO has been seeking new powers after a series of high profile data loss cases damaged public confidence in current security practices. However, a lack of political backing has compromised its efforts it in the eyes of some observers, with even recent changes to its abilities to impose penalties being seen as somewhat token.