In Washington, MEPs welcome Obama’s data privacy proposals
By Brian Beary in Washington | Tuesday 20 March 2012
During a five-day visit to Washington, a group of MEPs gave a generally positive appraisal of proposals unveiled by the US administration in February to create a new legal framework on data privacy. At a day-long conference on concurrent EU and US plans organised by the European Commission and hosted by the US Institute for Peace, the four MEPs who spoke thought that US President Barack Obama’s proposals, which include a Bill of Rights, were heading in the right direction. However, Sarah Ludford (ALDE, UK) urged the US to come to a “rapid agreement” with the EU in the ongoing talks for a horizontal agreement on data transfers between EU and US law enforcement agencies.
Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht (Germany) stressed the need to improve the legal redress options that individuals have if their privacy rights have been breached. Germany’s Axel Voss (EPP) suggested that a global framework would ultimately be needed given that we are in the digital age. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding addressed the conference by video link from Brussels, while the Commission’s Francoise Le Bail, director-general at DG Justice, gave the opening and closing remarks. The keynote speaker on the US side was Congressman Ed Markey (Democrat, Massachusetts), who praised the Commission for “setting the bar high” with its January 2012 draft regulation to update the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive.
The delegation of ten MEPs from Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) are meeting with US lawmakers and officials to discuss various data privacy-related dossiers. These include the November 2011 EU-US passenger name record (PNR) agreement, which Parliament is due to decide in the coming weeks whether it will ratify.