Vivian Reding is Vice President of the European Commission and EU Justice Commissioner. Here is a link to the text of a speech given on 4 December 2012 in which she explains why she thinks we need a new data protection regulation.
It is unlikely that anyone will argue with the idea that a directive made in 1995 is inadequate for the challenges of 2011 now that the Internet, social networking, cloud computing and sheer volume have changed our concept of what data is, and have introduced new problems along with many benefits. We cannot argue either with the idea that any new regulation should be ideally be consistent across the EU and that it should be backed by sanctions consistently applied.
Consistency, however comes at a price, and that price is the acceptance that the EU Commission is entitled to impose a consistent regulation across diverse jurisdictions and cultures and that it has any idea how to make such a thing work. The Commission will say that this is precisely what the EU is for. Many of us will see that as a drawback, in both nationalistic and practical terms. The idea that anything emanating from the Commission will cut red tape – an express ambition behind the regulation and referred to in the speech – is frankly laughable.
Every precedent shows EU politicians and bureaucrats enlarging their powers and increasing the burden of formality and cost placed on companies, governments and individuals as a result. That is what they do; that is their raison d’être (there, have a bit of French as a gesture of goodwill).
The closing paragraphs of Ms Reding’s speech make it clear that there have been adverse reactions and opposition to the proposals and that efforts are being made to compromise and conciliate. I do not doubt Ms Reding’s sincerity, but I am prepared to bet that the end result will simultaneously diminish the original intentions to worthlessness whilst imposing significant new burdens on those affected by them.