New EU rules on data protection approved at the European Parliament

  • News
  • 14/04/2016
  • BIK team

Today, the European Parliament has adopted new EU data protection legislation replacing the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive. Proposed by the European Commission in 2012 and agreed upon by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in December 2015, the new legislation has designed a set of rules providing citizens with more information and control over their own private information in the digital age, including protecting and expanding the scope of the right to be forgotten ruling in law. Additionally, the legislation aims to ease the process of setting up companies envisaging to strengthen the development of the Digital Single Market.

However, the legislation contains a controversial point regarding Article 8 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regarding the data protection of children, which states that "in relation to the offering of information society services directly to a child, the processing of personal data of a child below the age of 16 years, or if provided for by Member State law a lower age which shall not be below 13 years, shall only be lawful if and to the extent that such consent is given or authorised by the holder of parental responsibility over the child." In simpler words, this particular article could have repercussions on the usage of social media for young people under 16 as they would not be able to consent to the use of their data by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. 
In order to have a comprehensive understanding of the implications of the GDPR for children and young people, we asked the opinion of a number of experts in the online safety and digital rights fields, as well as of young people, in the latest edition of the Better Internet for Kids bulletin. Read the BIK bulletin here , and subscribe to receive future editions direct to your mailbox. The European Commission has also produced a briefing paper titled ‘How will the data protection reform affect social networks?'.
Another controversial point was regarding the adoption of an EU-wide Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive. The Paris and Brussels terror attacks have heighted security as a priority on the EU political agenda. In an attempt to put in place counter-terrorism measures and improve cooperation among police and security authorities from across Europe, the European Parliament has voted  in favour of the PNR Directive which allows the mass collection, use and retention of data on international airline passengers. The goal of the PNR Directive is the usage of the collected data only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crimes (such as child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and organised crime). In practice, it would mean data recorded from flights entering or leaving the EU countries can be then compared to information contained in databases. The collected information may include names, addresses, bank details and other personal data such as the meals requested during flights. PNR is already instated at a national level in some EU countries; the approval of the directive means that the data collected at national level can be shared among the EU member states and the rest of the world, therefore all data collection would be interconnected. 
However, some MEPs had serious concerns as this directive could undermine the protection of personal data and individual liberties of EU citizens and hence included further amendments to the directive to ensure the safeguarding of citizens' privacy. Civil liberties organisations also raised the point that religious and ethnic minorities can be victims of data mining through this directive, especially young Muslims, meaning they would be easily targeted by police authorities due to their religious beliefs and ethnic appearance. 
With the increase in concerns of online grooming in Europe by violent extremists, any measures that could feed into the exclusion and targeting of religious and ethnic minorities should be carefully revised, as it may feed into the ‘us versus them' speech typically used by these groups when targeting young Europeans. 
As a network of European Safer Internet Centres working for a better internet for children and young people, we address the issue of online extremism and radicalisation and provide a set of educational resources to combat online hate. Read an overview of our work on the issue across Europe here.

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