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Data security knowledge now more complicated for in-house lawyers

Posted by: Laurence Simons 14/01/13

A German MEP has made the European Commission's (ECs) proposed update to the 1995 Data Protection Act even more complicated with a 215-page report recommending a series of amendments, meaning those with in-house counsel positions worried about their company's data policies may need to plunge into a Kafkaesque diatribe of terrifying proportions to get a handle on the changing regulatory landscape.

The modifications proposed by German Green Party MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht are expected to bolster the original draft's privacy laws, while closing up any potential loopholes businesses could look to exploit in the future, reports Wired.

While the addition of further complications to what was an already fairly convoluted document may have some legal experts longing for the days of the abacus, there is no doubt that the ECs update could have serious ramifications for companies across Europe.

Daniel Cooper, head of global privacy and data security at Covington and Burling, told the technology news provider that the report is "not for the faint-hearted".

"With over 350 amendments tabled, Albrecht clearly is not adopting a light-touch approach. There is some logic behind seeking to refine and, ideally, improve the proposal at this stage," he added.

This is one of the key aims of the much-maligned EC legislative process, Mr Cooper pointed out, but acknowledged that some of the changes put forward by the German MEP could prove to be controversial further down the line.

Alterations that could have an impact for businesses include a stricter stance on the "right to be forgotten" clause if a company has no reason to stockpile personal data, a reiteration of the fact that pre-ticked boxes do not imply genuine consent, and the insertion of a clause stating that firms should only be able to process non-sensitive personal data without permission if their reasons are more important than a user's right to privacy.

As well as tightening up the wording around these issues, Mr Albrecht suggested that users need to be able to easily access and transfer their own data from one online service to another, meaning it should be in an accessible format - something that could affect Facebook, which currently offers this information in an extremely complicated file.

Secondly, the right not to be subject to profiling would prevent businesses from collating and selling data without the permission of end users - something that could drive away the lucrative big data market.

While the impact this will have on the availability of funny cat pictures is yet to be highlighted, it is likely to cause ripples across the internet when the legislation finally reaches its final draft.