Whenever you open a bank account,  join a social networking website or book a flight online, you hand over vital personal information such as your name, address, and credit card number. Are you aware of what happens to this data? Is it likely to fall in the wrong hands? How many of you think about this when filling up data fields?

This year, one of EU’s priorities was to complete a reform of data protection rules. The objective is to create a simpler regulatory business environment that enables a free and accessible market. Indeed, extremely quick changes are turning our old economy into a mainly digital-based social market, where a great part of commercial transactions takes place online.

Surveys know it better

Last March a survey about data protection was conducted by Eurobarometer. After asking 280 000 Europeans about control and disclosure of personal data, perceived risk and responsibilities and privacy policies, the overall conclusion of the survey clearly shows that the protection of personal data remains a very important concern for citizens, as it was when the Commission presented the first reform in 2012. Its outcome confirms the need to finalise the data protection reform as soon as possible.

The following statements are the most interesting results of Eurobarometer survey:

  • Only a minority (15%) feel they have complete control over the information they provide online; 31% think they have no control over it at all.
  • A large majority of people (71%) say that providing personal information is an increasing part of modern life and accept that there is no other alternative than to provide it if they want to obtain products of services.
  • A majority of people are uncomfortable about Internet companies using information about their online activity to tailor advertisements.
  • More than six out of ten respondents say that they do not trust landline or mobile phone companies and internet service providers (62%) or online businesses (63%).
  • Almost all Europeans say they would want to be informed should their data ever be lost or stolen.
  • Half of Europeans have heard about revelations concerning mass data collection by governments. Awareness ranges from 76% in Germany to 22% in Bulgaria.

What is going on?

It is an historical opportunity for setting up a global standard focused on personal rights and dignity (Giovanni Buttarelli, European Parlament –Libe commission).

The reform includes the unification of legislation at communitarian level. From what we know, it is intended to:

  • Grant the fundamental right to privacy for citizens;
  • Promote a digital economy development within the Digital Single Market.
  • Increase the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism and serious transnational crime.

If you’d like to know more about the proposals, a new App for smartphones and tablets was launched last July: the aim is to keep European citizens informed about negotiations’ process and enable them to understand the differences between the two proposals that have been discussed between EU Commission, EU Parliament and Council. The App is named EU Data Protection and you can download it from here, both for Android and IOS.

International Agreements

Also, the European Council has recently adopted a mandate that allows the European Commission to negotiate an agreement on data protection with the United States. The agreement is being discussed since early 2012 and aims to protect personal data that EU and USA are transmitting each other for law enforcement purposes.

Useful link to follow up: European Commission