Marking the first major overhaul of data protection legislation since 1995, the European Parliament has swiftly and overwhelmingly passed a number of laws intended to strengthen data protection. The laws passed with a sweeping 621 votes to 10, with 22 abstaining. This new set of laws is specifically aimed at privacy throughout the European Union, something that the EU already takes very seriously.
The next parliament will take office in May, at which point they will be charged with pushing it along to be approved by Europe’s many governments on the European Council. Should this be approved, European web firms are in for some significant changes.
Among the many requirements that are being hailed as the strongest set of data protection laws passed to date, are a set of regulations aimed at individual privacy that could have a big impact on the mobile world. The right to privacy often clashes with the definition of consent. The new EU laws have made it abundantly clear that you must explicitly give consent for your data to be accessed and that consent cannot be assumed.
Illustration by Patrick Chappatte, via The International Herald Tribune
There are also some essential principles being put forward by the new regulations, such as the idea of ‘privacy by design’ or ‘privacy by default.’ Privacy will be required by law to be built into an application or service from the ground up. A proactive approach to privacy instead of a reactive one will hopefully bring peace of mind to consumers when considering where and how their data is being stored.
There is criticism of course that this is simply a proud political statement by the EU, and will have little to no effect on what is on most people’s minds right now regarding the true enemy of data privacy and that’s big brother.
While person to person attacks will likely be helped by these new regulations, the idea of government spying being thwarted by government rules, is to some laughable. Many are taking the position of simply “if they want your data they’ll get your data.” What’s to stop the infrastructures set in place specifically for the gathering of intelligence?
Whether this situation is being approached cynically or more openly, this movement by the EU is nonetheless historic in that it’s addressing of an ever more pertinent issue. It will also prove historic when the issue becomes polarized should different countries take different sides on the issue when it comes to review before the European Council.