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Ex-ICO: Draft EU privacy rules will turn every citizen 'into a liar'

Current commish: Data protection reforms must target crooks, not biz

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Britain's Information Commissioner wants the force of the European Data Protection Directive to fall on rogues, not on businesses which already face mountains of paperwork. That's the message that Chris Graham will be taking to Europe when he goes there to hash out a compromise on the new European Data Protection Directive sometime before July.

Speaking at an event on Data Protection Day, Christopher Graham said that the EU's draft Data Protection Directive needed to focus on the risks that came from data management rogues, rather than chasing overburdened businesses to complete more paperwork.

"We want it defined in terms of outcomes rather than regulatory process," said Graham.

It's not going to work if we try and specify everything in the document. It should focus more on the risks and abuses and less on the average business.

Graham's predecessor in the job, Richard Thomas, was more blunt. Also speaking at the Data Protection Day event, he said that that the EU directive "should be taken back to the drawing board".

He said the EU needed to put "far less burden on the individuals" and commented that the directive would make liars of everyone:

With the current directive we are trying to turn every EU citizen into a continent of liars. We're asking people to tick boxes saying 'I have read everything' and they won't have.

The comments from the Information Commissioners - past and present - were in line with the UK ICO's latest published position on the new EU directive, published 22 January:

The current proposal is too prescriptive in terms of its administrative detail and the processes organisations will have to undertake to demonstrate accountability. This could be a particular problem for SMEs.

The preliminary response from the ICO also states that the EU's proposed "right to be forgotten" data protection reforms could lead citizens to expect a degree of protection that cannot be delivered in practice. The ICO warns that the EU must be realistic about the limited power EU data protection authorities may have over non- EU data controllers.

Underlining that point was a scathing attack on the reforms by a US diplomat at a Berlin conference last week.

John Rodgers, economic Officer in the US Foreign Service, warned taht the introduction of planned changes to EU data protection laws could herald a trans-Atlantic "trade war".

The European data protection authorities hope to produce a working document by July 2013. The first stakeholders' meeting is in May. ®

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