US privacy groups believe US officials lobby to weaken EU privacy

By EDRi · February 13, 2013

A coalition of 18 US privacy groups sent a letter on 30 January 2013 to
US politicians such as the Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary
of State John Kerry and the Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank,
asking for assurances that US policy makers in Europe “advance the aim
of privacy” and do not hinder the European data law proposals.

The European Union is considering the data protection regulation that
could give the citizens significant control over the use of their
personal data by websites and marketing companies. Several proposals
would require companies to obtain permission before collecting personal
data and specify exactly what information will be collected and how it
will be used.

One proposal refers to the so-called “right to be forgotten” that
obliges companies like Facebook to delete all information about users
who want to do that. The coalition shows concern over the fact that, as
the new EU Data Protection Regulation is under discussion and debate,
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have lately reported that US
policy makers are “mounting an unprecedented lobbying campaign to limit
the protections that European law would provide.”

The privacy groups believe that U.S. policymakers, politicians and
bureaucrats are undermining the work of the European Parliament. “The
U.S. should not stand in the way of Europe’s efforts to strengthen and
modernize its legal framework,” the letter states. Jeff Chester,
Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy told ZDNet that
despite President Obama’s pro-privacy speeches, his administration is
“working to protect the U.S. data lobby.”

He added: “One of the U.S.’ few growth areas is stealing other peoples
data. So, the U.S. is arguing that the EU should not enact strong
baselines rules requiring citizens to provide affirmative consent for
such critical uses as profiling, and adopt its weak industry friendly
approach based primarily on industry self-regulation.”

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in 2012 that the lobbying
effort had been “absolutely fierce” and unprecedented in scale.

On 3 February 2013, the head of a big pan-European industry group
revealed “intensifying pressure from U.S. lobbyists on behalf of
Google and Facebook,” as reported the Financial Times. Jacob
Kohnstamm, the chairman of the EU’s Article 29 Working Party also said
European lawmakers were “fed up” of U.S. lobbying.

The letter of the coalition notes that updating the U.S. Electronic
Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), under which authorities need only a
subpoena approved by a federal prosecutor, rather than a judge, to
obtain electronically stored messages six months old or older, would be
a good start for the U.S. officials to bring the country in compliance
with international human rights standards.

The US lobby has shown its practical results after several newspapers
and websites have pointed out that MEPs in the EP’s Internal Market and
Consumer Committee (IMCO) have included copy-paste amendments written by
Amazon, eBay or the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham EU).

Privacy groups call on U.S. government to stop lobbying against EU data
law changes (4.02.2013)

The E.U. could approve a new privacy policy later this year. Europe
Moves Ahead on Privacy (3.02.2013)

Lobby groups take CTRL+V of data protection proposal (11.02.2013)