[EurActiv] EU Parliament split over electronic data protection

Last November, the European Commission proposed a wide review of the rules on EU electronic communications, the so-called 'Telecoms package'. The proposals include upgrading the Directive Pdf external on personal data and protection of privacy for electronic services (see our Links Dossier).

Several parliamentary committees are involved in the dossier on data protection, but two have a binding say on framing the European Parliament's final text. These are the Internal Market and Civil Rights Committees.

The Council is expected to give its final opinion on the issue in November under the current French EU Presidency.


Behind this unusual rejection lies the LIBE Committee's intention to allow the processing of electronic traffic data by "any natural or legal person", without the consent of the user, if it is necessary for security purposes. Socialist and Green MEPs belonging to the IMCO Committee are not at ease with this wording.

Traffic data include several pieces of information which are considered private by many, particularly IP addresses (the first source of identity in the online world) and information relating to the duration, timing, volume and origins of an electronic communication.


Civil liberty group 'Squaring the Net' says the LIBE Committee amendment represents "a major breach for the protection the protection of personal data and privacy, as it allows businesses to remotely control users' electronic communications without their consent". It adds that such a measure "paves the way for the deployment of intrusive technologies on the client".

A spokesperson for the IMCO Committee said that "some MEPs are not certain to accept in the plenary vote the amendments proposed by the LIBE Committee", underlining that there could be problems and that there might be a need "for more time".

Next steps:

* Sep. 2008: Vote on Telecoms package planned in the plenary, although disagreements over electronic data protection could delay the vote.