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In the latest spat between the European Union institutions over ACTA, a report by the Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is turning into a political football. Iptegrity can reveal that the European Commission will hit back at the EDPS, whose recent report was critical of ACTA from a fundamental rights viewpoint. The first round was fired in a meeting of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee, which has had a sneak preview of the - as yet unpublished - Commission riposte.

The EDPS report, analysing ACTA solely from the perspective of the right to privacy, criticised ACTA was its lack of specificity. The EDPS report said that ACTA risked widescale monitoring of Internet users, and contained insufficient safeguards against abusive surveillance practices.

Unsurprisingly, the EDPS report has not gone down well in certiain parts of the Commission. The European Commission has apparently come back - via the Civil Liberties committee - and said that just because ACTA is vague on some points, and could be implemented in an unlawful way, that does not mean it would be.

Or, to put it another way, the essence of the European Commission's argument is that ACTA's vagueness on fundamental rights does not mean that it would be implemented in a way that infringes those rights.

The Commission gave the Civil Liberties committee an initial reaction to the EDPS report, prior to compiling a formal response. The Committee had waited for the Commission's note on EDPS before presenting its Opinion on ACTA at the LIBE meeting on Tuesday (see also ACTA would prematurely strangle debate, says civil liberties rapporteur )

The matter of the EDPS Opinion was raised at the LIBE meeting by Baroness Sarah Ludford, a British Liberal Democrat MEP. She questioned the rapporteur, Dimitrios Droutsas, to get his view on what the Commission had said.

A representative of the Commission was present to provide the LIBE Committee a verbal response. Mr Pedro Velasco Martins, a member of the ACTA negotiating team, gave what he described as 'an essential element of clarification'.

Curiously, Pedro Velasco Martins said that it is 'acknowledged that ACTA contains safeguards and that ACTA respects fundamental rights'. (It was not clear to me who it is that has acknowledged this ).

Mr Velasco Martins argued that 'ACTA has all of the safeguards in the TRIPS agreement, and all countries signed up to the WTO need to comply with TRIPS.' Moreover, he said that TRIPS compatibility with fundamental rights "has not been put into question since 1996". (NB: The Internet was in its infancy in 1996 and the problem did not exist.)

Mr Velasco Martins confirmed that the European Commission has asked the Parliament to take the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) into consideration before it votes.

The ECJ is expected to provide an opinion on ACTA based on a request from the Commission. It is not yet clear whether the request has been transmitted to the ECJ, and therefore it is not known how long the court will take to deliver it.

From the European Parliament's viewpoint, waiting for the ECJ would be likely to mean a delay to the vote of an indeterminate period. The Parliament is taking the view that consent to ACTA is a political decision that should be taken independently of the ECJ.

This is an original article from Iptegrity.com. You may re-publish it under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics - please cite as Monica Horten, EU Commission fires back at data protection chief , www.iptegrity.com , 10 May 2012 . Commercial users - please contact me

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

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