Looking for help with the Online Safety Act  - Ofcom consultation & guidelines? Please get in touch. 

It's all about money, get it!

Apart from banker bashing and fishing quotas, the toughest political battle in the European Parliament this year will be the one over data protection. Indeed, if the Telecoms Package fight over copyright was hot, this one is a cauldron of fire. MEPs will have to step carefully where angels fear to tread.

Officially, it concerns the Proposal for a Regulation on Protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and the free movement of such data (General Data Protection Regulation). Sometimes it is referred to as the Data Protection reform, although that is probably just Commission-ese.* Iptegrity will continue to refer to as the Data Protection Regulation.

The Regulation is currently in its first reading in the European Parliament, where it is being shepherded by rapporteur Jan Albrecht.

As I was in Brussels recently discussing it with policy-makers and lobbyists, it struck me that this is a particularly worrying piece of legislation and it ranks alongside 3 strikes measures for copyright, and traffic management in terms of its in terms of its possible implications.

Of course, where the public debate is coming from is the possible threat to privacy. But is that what this is really all about?

The corporate lobbying on this regulation is far stronger than you would expect for a piece of law from DG Justice. Indeed, it is astonishing in its volume and intensity, much more than we saw on the Telecoms Package. You may have seen some of the laundry lists of lobbyists that are circulating. What is surprising is not just the numbers, but the amount of paper they appear to be generating.

Where the Telecoms Package concerned two industries - the broadband providers and the content companies - this one seems to hold something of concern for a multiplicity of industries, and so we see healthcare, finance, pharmaceutical, and legal as well as the network providers and the so-called over-the-top companies all wading in. That's why the flames of this fight will be hotter, because there are so many interests that are fanning them.

But why would all those corporates spend money to deal with an issue that is just about keeping a few mailing lists secure and putting a cookie warning on a website?

The point is, they wouldn't. They'd just put a junior lobbyist onto it and keep calm.

The Data Protection Regulation has much higher stakes than that. In a world where the wheels of commerce are oiled by data, this is about a fight for control of the next generation of networks and media.

In that context, the high intensity corporate lobbying really should not be a surprise. This Regulation sets the rules that determine who wins and who loses. Who will get the customers, who gets most profit - the determining factors for either of those depend on the very data that this Regulation governs.

How do you think 'don't be evil' Google will provide 'tailored experiences'? Facebook already controls your data, it doesn't want some annoying MEP putting boundaries around its activities.

The broadband providers are no different. In the UK, O2 is now part-controlled by Rupert Murdoch's organisation, don't you think it will raise its fists at the first sight of regulatory restriction?

Hence, the principles that have governed the European data protection framework for many years could become fodder for the corporate shred mill as they seek to re-position the goal posts and re-draw the touch lines to suit their business interests.

That's what this fight is really about.

The former chairman of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy, famously once said: 'You have no privacy, get over it'. The issue for the European Data Protection Regulation is that the high stakes for business depend precisely on getting us to agree with that statement.


Iptegrity intends to cover the progress of the Data Protection Regulation. I don't know if I can do as much as I did for the Telecoms Package. Analysing European Parliament amendments is a painstaking job that should not be underestimated, even if you do have software tools (and I do). It's not just a matter of doing a cut-and -paste comparison in a spreadsheet, as some would claim. At best, that's just the raw data gathering exercise. Before I will publish anything, I carry out a full analysis and that is a more complex process.

But it does get easier third time around. Please check back again.

If you would like any help with analysis, please call me to discuss.

To find out more about what happened over the Telecoms Package, and how an EU law on telecoms was hit by amendments from the copyright industries, see my book The Copyright Enforcement Enigma Internet politics and the Telecoms Package which includes my analysis of the copyright amendments and the lobbying.


This is an original article from Iptegrity.com. If you refer to it or to its content, you should cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics - please cite as Monica Horten, New EU privacy rules: your data, their profit in www.iptegrity.com, 3 March 2013 . Commercial users - please contact me.


Find me on LinkedIn

About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. 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.