Strasbourg comment: Personal data protection

'Historic' vote set to end 'schizophrenic situation' of 28 individual data protection laws, says rapporteur Dimitrios Droutsas.

By Dimitrios Droutsas

13 Mar 2014

This is a historic vote for the European parliament. Our institution, after two years of diligent work, is showing today European citizens, and in fact the whole world, that we mean business when we champion ourselves as protectors of their fundamental rights. We have voted in favour of a comprehensive, ground-breaking overhaul of the way we protect personal data in Europe. Member states should pick up the thread from exactly where we left it and finish this job, which they regrettably have failed to do so until now.

The new data protection directive will bring significant improvements to the processing of personal data at the law enforcement sector. The new rules will increase fairness and transparency, setting limits to their use by the police and judicial authorities. The current regime had not foreseen the issue of parallel existing provisions on data protection in other EU instruments, and was introducing only minimum common standards among member states. Today´s schizophrenic situation of having 28 national law enforcement authorities adjusting their level of protection on a case by case basis is not sustainable.

The European citizens demand, from EU politicians, to be protected not only against Google but also against police and judicial authorities that often act arbitrarily. This report has maintained a balance in order to protect individuals without sacrificing the need to detect criminals and terrorists. We represent our citizens and it is our duty and obligation to protect their fundamental rights, especially during times when all trust in the political system is lost.

Of course we have not travelled the whole road yet. Unfortunately the European council is still dragging its feet and we have not managed to turn this reform into actual law. But I believe we should look into the future and reconsider our political approach to data protection rules. Historically, the EU has played a leading role in driving the development and introduction of data protection law around the world, thus I think we can keep such a role. It might sound very ambitious but maybe it's about time to start thinking about a global regime of protecting our data.