Citizens’ groups from around the world call on EC to defend privacy

By EDRi · April 21, 2015

The institutions of the European Union are completing a reform of Europe’s Data Protection framework. Recognising the huge significance of the reform, the European Commission made an unequivocal promise when it launched the process. As an “absolute red line”, the level of protection of individuals’ data would not fall below existing levels. However, leaks show that this promise is not being kept.

Sixty-six NGOs from the European Union, North, Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia have joined forces to ask for a confirmation from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that the promise will be respected.

“Without leadership from President Juncker, the right to privacy, not just in Europe but around the globe will be undermined”, said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights, the organisation that initiated the letter. “We hope and expect that the Commission President will uphold the integrity and independence of his institution. We expect a short, rapid response to our question.”

In 2012, the European Commission made an initial legislative proposal to modernise and reform European privacy legislation. The proposal was amended by the European Parliament in 2014. This update is urgently needed, due to the challenges of new technology, the need to harmonise the law and ensure its effective enforcement in Europe. Faced with profiling, digitisation of health data and online tracking, every corner of our lives is increasingly being invaded by “big data”. Due to the amount of data being collected, businesses and governments increasingly know more about us than we know about ourselves – about our preferences, our health, our relationships and our politics. Without credible regulation citizens lose, businesses lose, society loses.

Read the letter here (PDF):

 21 April 2015

By email:
CC: First Vice-President Timmermans, Vice-President Ansip, Commissioner Jourová

Dear President Juncker,

The undersigned organisations, NGOs from the European Union and around the globe are deeply concerned at the changes to the data protection reform package being made in the Council of the European Union. Europe’s data protection framework is not just important for the protection of European citizens, it is not just important for building trust in European businesses, it is also crucial as an international gold standard for data protection and privacy on a global level.

On behalf of the College of Commissioners, former European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding promised European citizens and businesses stronger, unified data protection rules, “bringing them into the digital age without compromising the high level of data protection which has been in place in Europe since 1995″. Dropping below the levels of protection in the 1995 Directive would be an “absolute red line” for the Commission, she promised. The Council has retreated beyond this line and is disappearing into the distance, as our recently published analysis demonstrates.

A failure of the European Commission to maintain levels of data protection in the 1995 Directive would be a breach of the promise made by the European Commission, it would be a breach of the promise of treaty-level protection of the right to personal data enshrined in Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and it would be a crushing breach of trust for this, in your words, “last chance” Commission.

We write this letter with one simple question – will you take responsibility for ensuring that the Commission’s legal and political promise will be kept?

We look forward to your timely answer, before the Council completes its discussions ahead of the trialogue negotiations on this proposal.

Yours sincerely,
Joe McNamee
European Digital Rights – EDRi (Europe)
20 Rue Belliard, 1040 Brussels, Belgium

Access (International)
Association for Progressive Communications – APC (International)
Privacy International (International)
World Wide Web Foundation (International)

ALES – Alumni of European Studies (Croatia)
Aktion Freiheit statt Angst e.V. (Germany) – Arbeitskreis Vorratsdaten Österreich (Austria)
Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung (Germany)
Asociatia pentru Tehnologie si Internet – ApTI (Romania)
BEUC – The European Consumer Organisation (Europe)
Bits of Freedom (Netherlands)
Consumentenbond (Netherlands)
Danish Consumer Council (Denmark)
Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz e.V. (Germany)
DFRI (Sweden)
Digitalcourage (Germany)
Digitale Gesellschaft e.V. (Germany)
EU-Logos Athèna (Belgium)
European Information Society Institute – EISi (Slovakia)
FIfF – Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung e.V. (Germany)
Forum Datenschutz (Austria)
Fundamental Rights European Experts Group – FREE (Europe)
GeneWatch UK (United Kingdom)
GreenNet (United Kingdom)
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
Initiative für Netzfreiheit (Austria)
International Modern Media Institute (Iceland)
Iuridicum Remedium (Czech Republic)
IT-Pol (Denmark)
Liberty – NCCL (United Kingdom)
medConfidential (United Kingdom)
Norwegian Consumer Council (Norway)
One World Platform (Bosnia Herzegovina)
Open Rights Group (United Kingdom)
Panoptykon Foundation (Poland)
SHARE Foundation (Serbia)
#StopWatchingUs Cologne (Germany)
VZBV – Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Germany)
VIBE – Verein für Internet-Benutzer Österreichs (Austria)

JONCTION (Senegal)
KICTANet (Kenya)
Unwanted Witness Uganda (Uganda)

Bytes for All (Pakistan)
CIS India (India)
Digital Rights Foundation (Pakistan)
Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)

Australian Privacy Foundation (Australia)

Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa – ACI-Participa (Honduras)
Fundación Acceso (Costa Rica)
IPANDETEC – Instituto Panameño de Derecho y Nuevas Tecnologías (Panama)

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (Canada)
Center for Digital Democracy (United States)
Consumer Federation of America (United States)
Consumer Watchdog (United States)
Electronic Privacy Information Center – EPIC (United States)
Horizontal (Mexico)
Open Government Project (Canada)
Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales – R3D (Mexico)
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic – CIPPIC (Canada)

ADC – Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (Argentina)
DATA (Uruguay)
Fundacion Karisma (Colombia)
Fundación Vía Libre (Argentina)
Hiperderecho (Peru)
TEDIC (Paraguay)