|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.20, 17.5.01, p25|
AS US-based computer giant Microsoft announced this week it would voluntarily comply with stringent EU data protection rules, Union industry is being scolded for complaining that new privacy standards would be overly burdensome.
CEN, the European standards body, is poised to launch a report next month which will highlight areas where new standards will be developed to help companies comply with the rules.
Senior Commission officials say firms are wrong to dismiss the effort by claiming it will put in place onerous new protection measures.
"The problem behind the controversy is very simple," said one official.
"The [companies] are afraid of having something generally accepted for society at large that is much too strong for them. In addition, if you put existing problems between the EU and US into the picture, you are understanding the controversy."
The official says it is not clear what standards could eventually be developed and how they would work.
But he says there is definitely scope for "a general code" that helps companies designing computer software and other management systems to ensure they meet the terms of the EU's tough 1998 data privacy directive.
He was responding to comments from industry groups such as direct marketing lobby FEDMA which are fiercely critical of the initiative, led by CEN's information society standards systems unit (ISSS).
Direct marketing firms claim standardisers should keep out - leaving industry to sort out its own codes of conduct. FEDMA's Axel Tandberg says data privacy is "too political" for standards bodies to get embroiled in.
He adds that industry's codes of conduct would be more flexible and easily changed than rigid standards that would take longer to update if EU policy moved.
"CEN is fantastic about deciding where to put a brake pedal on a car - but that is technical," Tandberg said.
He added that FEDMA hopes to finalise its own negotiations with an EU committee of national data privacy commissioners on a own code of conduct for data privacy later this year. Daniel Krebber spokesman for the World Federation of Advertisers said: "Standardisation is a second best and myabe third best option for us."
He added advertisers preferred solutions chosen by the market.
Washington is also believed to be sceptical of another EU initiative in data privacy - an issue that has already raised transatlantic trade tensions.
The Commission is seeking to play down fresh US concerns over model contracts that it hopes will allow companies across the world to meet the terms of the EU's data directive.
Union rules allow member states to block transfers of data to countries that do not have 'adequate protection' against abuses of personal information.
The US, which lacks formal legislation allowing it to prove this, has been forced to negotiate a special opt-out for companies that agree to adhere to the provisions of a 'safe harbour' deal with the EU.
But the model contracts would allow firms in any country, including US firms not part of the safe harbour, to trade in data with no restrictions.
As US-based computer giant Microsoft announced in May 2001 that it would voluntarily comply with stringent EU data protection rules, Union industry is being scolded for complaining that new privacy standards would be overly burdensome.
|Subject Categories||Internal Markets|