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Data Protection: MEP Kelly updates Dublin conference on EU’s ‘landmark law’

Published: Tue, 28 January 2014

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The General Data Protection Regulation, once finalised, will be the most important landmark law to be adopted in the EU in many years, Sean Kelly MEP told the National Data Protection Conference 2014 in Dublin today (Tuesday 28th January: Data Protection Day).

The South MEP is centrally involved in the process to reform data privacy law as a member of the European Parliament’s influential Industry, Research and Energy committee.  Mr Kelly drafted the report on the Commission’s proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation. 

“The Parliament will lead in updating this law with a vote scheduled on our text for March 11th next.  Meanwhile, the Council is deadlocked, bogged down in the detail surrounding the One Stop Shop.

“Nevertheless, negotiations between Parliament and Council commence in June, with a view to having the Data Protection law finalised by year end. This is arguably the landmark law of the last five years of EU law-making, as it will have a direct effect on the lives of each every one of the 508 million EU citizens.”

Mr Kelly pointed to the key issues of consent – ‘unambiguous’ or ‘explicit’ consent, the need to reduce the bureaucratic burden on SMEs, press freedom and health research.

“I welcomed the inclusion by the Commission of the exemption for SMEs for a mandatory Data Protection officer for SMEs with fewer than 250 employees and for whom data processing was not a core business function. 

“There’s some concern about the potential curtailments to health research data sharing from academics and research institutions.  As with press freedom, I believe that this section can be improved in the negotiations to be held with the Council of Ministers.”

Mr Kelly also highlighted the “decisive” impact of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks on the Data Protection debate: “One of the immediate outcomes was the insertion of a draft of an Article that had been dropped by the Commission, the so-called Article 42a.  It stipulates that foreign intelligence services must liaise with the domestic services and DPAs of a member state through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, or M-LATs, should they wish to mine data. 

“One of the spill-overs of the NSA/Snowden affair, which could have a negative impact on the Irish economy, is the issue of the Safe Harbour agreement.  This agreement allows the free transfer of data out of the EU to US servers and is monitored and enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission. 

“There are on-going calls to scrap this agreement by many MEPs in the Parliament. 

I do not agree with this position however as it would lead to great uncertainty in the transatlantic economy without improving the protection of EU citizens’ privacy in the short to medium term.  I would rather see a renegotiation of it along the lines of the 13 point plan proposed by the European Commission recently,” he added.

 Sean Kelly MEP was addressing Ireland’s largest Data Protection Conference at Dublin Castle this morning, Tuesday, January 28th. The full text of Mr Kelly’s speech can be found here.


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