EU Commission: Proposal for Comprehensive Data Protection Reform

On 25 January 2012, the European Commission has proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU's 1995 data protection rules to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe's digital economy.

The Commission's proposals include a policy Communication setting out the Commission's objectives and two legislative proposals: a Regulation setting out a general EU framework for data protection and a Directive on protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities. Key changes in the reform include:

  • A single set of rules on data protection, valid across the EU. Unnecessary administrative requirements, such as notification requirements for companies, will be removed. This will save businesses around €2.3 billion a year.
  • Instead of the current obligation of all companies to notify all data protection activities to data protection supervisors – a requirement that has led to unnecessary paperwork and costs businesses €130 million per year, the Regulation provides for increased responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data.
  • For example, companies and organisations must notify the national supervisory authority of serious data breaches as soon as possible (if feasible within 24 hours).
  • Organisations will only have to deal with a single national data protection authority in the EU country where they have their main establishment. Likewise, people can refer to the data protection authority in their country, even when their data is processed by a company based outside the EU. Wherever consent is required for data to be processed, it is clarified that it has to be given explicitly, rather than assumed.
  • People will have easier access to their own data and be able to transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily (right to data portability). This will improve competition among services.
  • A ‘right to be forgotten’ will help people better manage data protection risks online: people will be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it.
  • EU rules must apply if personal data is handled abroad by companies that are active in the EU market and offer their services to EU citizens.
  • Independent national data protection authorities will be strengthened so they can better enforce the EU rules at home. They will be empowered to fine companies that violate EU data protection rules. This can lead to penalties of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the global annual turnover of a company.
  • A new Directive will apply general data protection principles and rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The rules will apply to both domestic and cross-border transfers of data.

The Commission's proposals will now be passed on to the European Parliament and EU Member States (meeting in the Council of Ministers) for discussion. They will take effect two years after they have been adopted.

Commission's Communication, COM (2012) 9, 25 January 2012: 
"Safeguarding Privacy in a Connected World - A European Data Protection Framework for the 21st Century"

proposed General Data Protection Regulation, COM (2012) 11, 25 January 2012:
" Regulation on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data"

proposed Directive, COM (2012) 10, 25 January 2012:
"Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and the free movement of such data"

Report, COM (2012) 12, and Annex, both 25 January 2012:
"based on Article 29 (2) of the Council Framework Decision of 27 November 2008 on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters"

Impact Assessment accompanying the proposed General Data Protection Regulation and Directive with Annexes, SEC (2012) 72, and Executive Summary, SEC (2012) 73, all 25 January 2012

Public consultation before launching the 2012 proposals for the reform of data protection

Verlag Dr. Otto Schmidt vom 31.01.2012 14:38

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