On December 1, 2010, the European Parliament hosted a Privacy Platform on the European Commission’s recent Communication proposing “a comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union,” which is aimed at modernizing the current EU data protection framework.

The panel, hosted by European Parliament Member Sophie in ‘t Veld, included:

  • The Head of Cabinet of the European Commission’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Martin Selmayr (in Commissioner Viviane Reding’s absence);
  • The Chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, Jacob Kohnstamm; and
  • The European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx.

The Platform was very well attended, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.

While the panelists generally welcomed the Communication, Mr. Kohnstamm stated that “more ambition was needed,” and Mr. Hustinx commented that the Communication was “too cautious.” All panelists supported the idea of bringing law enforcement and judicial cooperation under the realm of a single EU data protection framework, for which the Lisbon Treaty now provides a legal basis. The panelists also agreed that enforcement mechanisms for data subjects should be enhanced, notably through the introduction of an EU system of “collective redress” (a type of EU class action), about which the European Commission is expected to launch a public consultation soon.

Furthermore, Mr. Kohnstamm called for increased independence, the ability to provide binding opinions in case of conflicting local rules or interpretations in the Member States, and separate budgetary rights for the Article 29 Working Party. Other discussion topics included “the right to be forgotten,” “accountability” and the concept of “privacy by design,” which Mr. Hustinx stated should be mandatory rather than merely a promoted concept. Although these subjects were not discussed in much detail, they give some indication of what is particularly on the radar of the EU legislature and authorities.

Further works and publications are expected in the coming months, with the Commission’s final review of the current Data Protection Directive anticipated next summer. The public consultation on the Communication is open until January 15, 2011. Further information on Hunton & Williams’ comments on the Commission’s draft Communication is available here.