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28 January 2013, 12:14

Brussels declaration for stronger EU data protection reform

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Privacy organisations A number of civil rights organisations have jointly published a Brussels Privacy Declaration in support of better protection for EU citizens' privacy. The declaration, which interested users can sign, sets out demands for the EU's planned data protection regulation. The organisations also express their outrage that the basic right of individuals to decide what happens to their information is "widely ignored".

The declaration, which has already been signed by nearly a dozen other civil rights and consumer protection organisations, is the brainchild of Dutch organisation Bits of Freedom and the umbrella groups Privacy International and European Digital Rights (EDRi). The authors of the declaration criticise the existence of more than 1,200 companies specialising in trading personal data.

The declaration notes that every EU citizen is already stored in hundreds of databases, largely without their knowledge or consent. Any citizen going online today can expect their every click to be monitored by more than 50 specialised companies. The information collected is constantly being "categorised and judged by algorithms" and the user then treated according to the "perceived value they may or may not bring to business".

The declaration appeals to MEPs and governments to strengthen and better enforce data protection legislation. It calls for the new EU legislation to set out that personal data can only be processed with "explicit, strong and informed consent". The signatories also call for a ban on the practice of coupling the use of a service to the granting of permission to use personal data. They also call for the use of and sharing of data to be made more transparent.

The civil rights groups believe that "true data portability" is essential for promoting competition and making it easier to switch to other platforms. The declaration also calls for secret online and offline profiling of users and customers to be banned and states that every EU citizen should have the right to effectively control his or her personal information. It also calls for "effective redress mechanisms and sanctions imposed on companies and government bodies that do not respect the law".

The declaration is also aimed at countering lobbying by the US government and numerous trade associations and Silicon Valley internet businesses. Recently, for example, a Washington position paperPDF was uncovered that questioned the planned strict enforcement measures against data protection infringements and the requirement for consent. Civil rights and consumer protection organisations are worried that the extensive lobbying taking place will mean that their concerns will end up being ignored.

(Stefan Krempl / fab)

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