Centre for Internet & Society

An open letter was sent to the Members of the European Parliament of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on the proposed EU Regulation. The letter was apart of an initiative that Privacy International and a number of other NGO's are undertaking.

Dear Members of the European Parliament of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee,

On behalf of The Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, India,  we are writing to express our support of the European Commission’s proposed General Data Protection Regulation (COM (2012) 11).

The legal framework established under the 1995 Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) in Europe has positively influenced many existing privacy regimes worldwide, serving as a model legal framework in jurisdictions that are in the process of developing privacy regimes, including India. The positive impact of the Data Protection Directive shows the potential of the Regulation to become a global model for the protection of personal data. The Regulation seeks to address new scenarios that have arisen in the context of rapidly changing technologies and practices, increasing its potential for positively influencing privacy rights for individuals globally.

India is currently in the process of considering the enactment of privacy legislation, in part with the aim of ensuring adequate safeguards to enable and enhance information flows into India from countries around the world, including Europe. At the same time, India is seeking  Data Secure Status from the EU, on the basis of its current regime.

It is clear that the EU framework for data protection has a major influence on the current and emerging privacy regime in India. India is only one country of many that are in the beginning stages of developing a comprehensive privacy regime. Thus, we ask that you keep in mind how the Regulation will impact the rights of individual in countries outside of Europe, particularly in countries that are in the process of developing privacy regimes.

We ask that you take into consideration the four following points that we believe need to be addressed in the Regulation to help ensure adequate protection of the rights of individuals in the European Union and around the world.

  1. Strengthen the principle of purpose limitation: The Regulation should incorporate a strong purpose limitation principle that strictly limits present and future uses of personal data to the purposes for which it was originally collected. Currently, Article 6(4) allows for the further processing of data when the processing is “not compatible with the one for which the personal data have been collected”. Though the provision establishes legal requirements, one of which must be before information can be used for a further purpose, this is has proven insufficient in the existing Directive. The current provision in the Regulation dilutes the principle of purpose limitation as well as weakening an individual’s ability to make informed decisions about their personal data.
  2. Define principles for interpretation of broad terms: The Regulation should create principles for interpreting broad terms such as “legitimate interest” and “public interest”. These vague terms are used throughout the Regulation, and create the potential for loopholes or abuse. Because these terms can be interpreted in many different ways, it is important to create a set of principles to guide their interpretation  by data protection authorities and courts to avoid inconsistent application and enforcement of the Regulation.
  3. Clarify the scope of the Regulation: The Regulation should clearly describe the jurisdictional scope and reach of its provisions. Currently Article 3(1) states that the Regulation will apply to the processing of data “in the context of the activities of an establishment of a controller or a processor in the Union”.  The flow of information on the online environment coupled with trends such as cloud computing, outsourcing, and cross border business creates a scenario where defining what constitutes “context of the activities of an establishment”, is difficult and could lead to situations where personal data is not protected, as the collection, use, or storage of it does not necessarily fall within the “context of the activities”.
  4. Address access by foreign alliance bodies: In light of growing demands by law enforcement for access, use, and transfer of personal information for investigative purposes across jurisdictions– the Regulation should define the circumstances in which personal data protected by its provisions can be accessed and used by foreign intelligence bodies, and the procedure by which to do so. The Regulation should address challenges such as access by foreign intelligence bodies to data stored on the cloud and data that has passed through/is stored on foreign networks/servers.
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