The agenda of the year 2016 for the protection of digital rights was filled with challenges, and it looks like 2017 is not going to be any easier.
Since the Digital Single Market is one of the priorities of the Maltese presidency of the Council of the European Union, we can expect more policy developments affecting citizens’ rights and freedoms online in 2017. In its work programme, Malta pledges to pursue talks on geoblocking, roaming fees, connectivity, high frequencies and cross-border portability.
While taking advantage of the single market to benefit the economies by scrapping trade barriers and providing European citizens access to services, it is crucial to keep the focus on improving data protection, freedom of expression and defending citizens’ right to privacy.
What were the crucial policy developments in 2016? What we expect to happen in 2017, and what are our key priorities for the year ahead?
Data protection and privacy
In 2016, the European Parliament adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Law Enforcement Data Protection Directive (LEDP), which are set to enter into force in 2018. EDRi welcomed the overall positive outcome of the GDPR, but regrets that the initial high expectations were not realised. The Commission adopted the Privacy Shield adequacy decision that has already been challenged in front of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and rejected by the European Parliament. The EU/US Umbrella Agreement, which was judged to be incompatible with EU law by the European Parliament’s legal service, was also approved.
As for 2017, e-Privacy will be one of EDRi’s main priorities. On 10 January, the European Commission published its proposal for the e-Privacy Regulation. This legislation is crucial to provide clear rules on tracking individuals as they surf the web, and freedom of communication more generally. To promote trust, privacy and innovation, the proposal needs significant improvement.
In 2017, we will provide input on discussions around cross-border access to evidence and the protection of encryption. We will also provide input on discussions around the Council of Europe’s Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, also with a particular interest in the hot topic of “access to evidence”. Weakening of procedural rules for access to communications data by foreign governments would obviously have major implications for privacy and security.
In 2016, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) published its guidelines on the implementation of European net neutrality rules. Thanks to our hard and persistent work, the guidelines reflect our recommendations quite well.
In 2017 we will keep on campaigning for net neutrality by providing input to discussions around the BEREC regulation, and monitoring the Telecoms Package review. In December, we reported on the success of one of our Austrian members in ensuring the effective implementation of the new rules.
The current European copyright system is broken and must be changed. The European Commission has set in its agenda reforming copyright as one of the foundations to build the Digital Single Market. In 2016, the Commission issued a highly criticised draft legislation. The proposed Copyright Directive could not conceivably be worse, even including a proposal for upload filtering, despite the fact that the Court of Justice of the European Union has already rejected this approach.
In 2017, the European Parliament and Council will discuss the new proposal. We will closely follow the discussions and advocate for amendments to improve the parts of the text that can be improved and rejection of the parts that cannot.