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Outrage as MEPs accused of amending data law proposals after Google and Amazon lobbying

21 Feb 2013
Euro Parliament

A vote by Members of European Parliament (MEP) on new data protection laws has drawn outrage after they were accused of watering down the proposals to appease large corporations like Amazon, Google and BT.

The proposals for a new Data Protection Directive were first unveiled at the start of 2012 by the European Commission (EC) and are currently being debated through Parliament at a European level, with a view to becoming law by 2015.

In the latest stage of the process the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) committee voted through the proposals but with significant changes. These included removing fines of two percent of turnover for data breaches and reducing the control consumers would have over their data.

This has drawn outrage from advocacy groups, including the Open Right's Group, who were in Brussels during the week to watch the events unfold.

"EU Parliament is succumbing to enormous pressure and misinformation from companies like Google and Amazon through to BT," said Peter Bradwell, from the organisation.

"The bottom line is that these companies collect information in incredible detail about us, but want to reduce the rights we have over that data."

He explained the changes included weakening the meaning of consent, narrowing the definition of personal information so certain types have less protection, and creating a loophole to allow companies to use data for purposes unrelated to the original collection.

"That would mean companies could pass information on to third parties, who could then use it for purposes unrelated to the originally collection so long as it is in their own 'legitimate interest'," he said.

"That completely undermines people's ability to control how their information is used."

BT defended its involvement, claiming it was necessary to ensure any changes to laws did not hinder innovation or harm businesses.

"As a multinational company, BT handles a large amount of personal data and we welcome the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue on this draft EU Regulation - both directly and via our association with trade bodies such as the CBI," it said.

"We recognise that with technological development there is a need to update the existing law, but any changes must balance the need for innovation and growth with the rights of the individual - whilst avoiding the potential for crippling administration costs."

V3 contacted Amazon and Google for comment but had received no reply at time of publication.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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