[European Union] Data Protection Regulation Vote Delayed Until September

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

There have been several previous postings about the European Union Proposed Data Protection Regulation. The purpose of the proposed regulation is for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing and use of personal data.  This is critical for genealogists as the proposed regulation addresses both historical and current personal data.  Personal information includes such items as birth, marriage and death records as well as other records and therefore, genealogists should be carefully monitoring what is happening with this proposed regulation.  the Irish Times stated “For data protection purposes, we could end up in a situation where genealogical, biographical, historical or even journalistic research will be in some way curtailed”.

The vote was to have occurred originally in April, then delayed to May then again to  late June or July.  It appears that the vote has again been delayed to September.  The reasons given for the delay are the complexity of the document as well as the overwhelming number of proposed amendments—3,000.  The proposed amendment is scheduled to be heard in the EU’s Civil Liberties Committee.

European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, told the Civil Liberties Committee that access by U.S. authorities to the personal data of EU citizens under the PRISM (USA’s NSA program)  program could be illegal under international law (12 PVLR 1120, 6/24/13).  A pivotal issue is a clause that was in the original draft but removed from the final draft stating “disclosures not authorized by Union law” should be inserted back into the draft data protection regulation”.  The article would forbid any company from handing the personal data of EU citizens over to non-EU governments unless the disclosure was done in accordance with a mutual legal assistance treaty or equivalent agreement.

The recent Snowden-NSA controversy also has raised the specter by some in Europe that impose far more stringent terms for companies that want to transfer personal data out of the EU -- and that would be a big problem for Internet companies. To read more on this go to: http://tinyurl.com/munk8fq

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A hallmark of the European Commission's proposal is the "right to be forgotten" provision, which requires companies controlling data to delete information upon request.  Individuals would be allowed access to their own data and be given a right to "data portability." This means they could request a copy of their stored data and move it to another service provider.

The clock is ticking as there are EU Parliament elections scheduled for May 2014 and if this regulation does not pass out of the Civil Liberties Committee  in time for each of the EU institutions to vote on the new Parliament would have to decide if it wants to proceed with the dossier or return it to the European Commission.  If they decide the former then the European Council would have to start all over again.

 Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee


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