Survey: European Union Needs Trade Deal Privacy Regime

Digital rights and privacy groups are launching a campaign to pressure trade deal negotiators to look at privacy and data protection differently.

The vanguard of that effort is a new report released July 13 and commissioned by the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, European Digital Rights, and the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD).

The EU and U.S. just launched a new cross-border data flow privacy shield regime, which the groups have issues with. The report says the EU undermines personal data and privacy rights in trade agreements, citing the EU/U.S. TTIP trade deal, for one.

CDD executive director Jeff Chester argues that without a consistent framework for balancing the interests of free flows of data and information across borders with data collection and surveillance, privacy rights will be weakened through trade agreements. "NGOs on both sides of the Atlantic realized we needed a blueprint to help address this," he said, "to move beyond the debate where one either believes that 'all data flows are good' versus potentially restrictive measures."

The study says the EU should:

• "Keep rules on privacy and data protection out of trade agreements, by means of a legally-binding exclusion clause. This is also recommended by the European Parliament.

• "Include an exception that allows any signatories to regulate cross-border data transfers. This should apply to any sector that deals with the processing and transfer of personal data, such as financial services, within a trade agreement.

• "Insert a clause into trade agreements that prevents an EU measure from becoming automatically invalid or inapplicable.

• "Prevent clauses in trade agreements which would oblige the EU to submit forthcoming rules on privacy and data protection to trade ‘tests’ in order to see if they are more burdensome than necessary.

• "Treat all trade partners the same way when granting ‘adequacy status’ for data transfer purposes to prevent the EU from being vulnerable to potential challenge under trade rules.

• "Require the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) to issue an opinion on the texts of free trade agreements."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.