Controversial EU Data Protection Regulation May Be Negotiated In Secret In Breach Of Parliamentary Process
from the snowden-effect dept
Today, the European Parliament held a three-hour long debate on PRISM, Tempora and what the EU response should be. Many wanted TAFTA/TTIP put on hold; others didn't. But one theme cropped up again and again: the need for strong data protection laws that would offer at least some legal protection against massive and unregulated transfer of Europeans' personal data to the US.
As Techdirt readers may recall, the EU's Data Protection Regulation was already contentious even before Ed Snowden revealed the scale of US and UK spying on EU citizens. The new focus on passing it soon only intensifies the battle going on there between those who want to introduce meaningful constraints on what can be done with EU data, and those who seem happier to listen to lobbyists and allow personal information to flow across the Atlantic largely unchecked. But it looks like the politicians have come up with a way to avoid public debate on the matter, as Monica Horten at Iptegrity.com reports:
Secret trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers are being proposed as a way to get around the impasse of 3000+ amendments on the Data Protection Regulation.
As Horten explains:
trilogues are held in secret, behind closed doors, and the only people allowed in are the rapporteur [the lead MEP representing the European Parliament] and his shadows, the Commissioner, the Presidency, and selected advisers from each institution. The trilogue discussions are not made public.
As well as being reprehensible -- if anything needed to be conducted in public, this did -- it may be against the EU's own rules:
trilogues cannot start before the responsible committee has given a mandate. That's what's a little bit odd here. The mandate can only be given when the committee votes in October.
That might solve the problem of avoiding high-profile arguments over what should be in the Regulation, but it would also place anything that comes out of these secret negotiations on a questionable footing:
But the Brussels rumour mill is suggesting that there could be a move to begin trilogues on the Data Protection Regulation before October, without waiting for the committee mandate.
it would be a breach of Parliamentary process, and especially egregious given that this law deals with fundamental rights.
In other words, nobody really knows what will happen here. Call it the Snowden Effect: anything relating even indirectly to his case seems to become more complex and unpredictable....
In any event, the rapporteur does not have to agree to trilogues. It is an option.