EU data protection measures cannot burden business

Written by Timothy Kirkhope on 4 March 2015 in Feature

Laws governing data usage are inadequate for the smartphone age, argues Timothy Kirkhope.

Data is the lifeblood of the world we live in. It is the cog which keeps the world of business, social media, consumers, education and research turning. Despite this, the laws governing data usage, the 1995 data protection directive, were created in a world dominated by the pen and not the smartphone. As the ECR shadow rapporteur on the regulation, my priority has always been to strike a balance and ensure that the final product is proportionate, addressing both the need to protect civil liberties, personal information and continuing to enable economic growth and innovation.

In conclusion, the regulation will cut out the burden of time and money which comes with operating 28 different legal systems in 28 member states and make it easier for businesses and consumers to operate. The impact of this regulation on the economy and the individual cannot be underestimated. Consensus will not be easily reached but hopefully the length of time it has taken to work towards an agreement will be indicative of the quality of the legislation which I hope will last for at least another 20 years.

"One single EU-wide legal framework will mean a more efficient and transparent system guaranteeing better protection for the individual"

Clear legal rights for citizens across the EU are of the utmost importance: individuals must know exactly to whom and under what conditions they are handing over their data. One single EU-wide legal framework will mean a more efficient and transparent system guaranteeing better protection for the individual. The consumer experience must also be considered and this is where an important balance needs to be struck.

While people want their bank details and other sensitive information to remain private, they do not want controls which are so strict that they get in the way of a fast and simple online experience. Similarly, businesses must also be able to thrive and direct marketing and other legitimate interests, which require a certain amount of data sharing, must be allowed space within this regulation.

The parliament is moving in the right direction. There will be tough talks ahead but I am optimistic that a positive outcome can be reached. The rules we put in place must be practical, including permitting the transfer of data to third countries as well as special rules for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This sector is the largest contributor to the economic recovery at present and should be encouraged to operate: I know my constituents who work in SMEs will welcome legal clarity on how to trade across Europe, as well as rules which make operating easier, the last thing business needs now is overly burdensome regulation and unnecessary bureaucracy.

'Big data' is also now on the agenda and there is huge innovation and commercial potential for companies to use it, and so long as a structure is in place to ensure that this data is handled responsibly, the benefits to society could be enormous. This is the next big step and is something that needs to be considered very carefully.


About the author

Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK) is a member of parliament′s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee

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