Magic, Oh Magic: EU Data Protection Regulation

Eurovision is something that is often sniggered at in the UK, but it is held in a quite different regard in many other European states. In some countries, it highly regarded and by many it is seen as a springboard to an international music career – and it has been just that to many past acts. However, the broadening of the number of countries participating has also led to some challenges, with which other European organisations are all too familiar.

The reactions to last year’s Eurovision winner, Conchita Wurst, tended to show the shared views of EU states compared to its nearby neighbouring states. Russia had a particularly strong reaction against this winner, while the EU member states tended to show more acceptance and indifference towards the less traditional character.

Although countries within the EU have a lot in common compared to other parts of the world, even compared to very close neighbours, the differences between the individual member states is still quite stark in some regards. This makes it very tricky for the EU legislators when trying to draft new laws for EU harmonisation.

The new Data Protection Regulation is a good example of this. The relevant committees have been working on this for many years already, but still have a considerable way to go. Use of personal information in the various member states is very different, even under the current EU Directive regime, and compromises are hard to reach.

One crude example of differing attitudes in very close-by states is in Scandinavia. There, individuals’ tax returns are published and are available for inspection by anyone. Such an approach would be subject to outrage in the UK and in many other member states. Although the issues slowing progress with the Regulation are more technical that that, with such polarised attitudes in mind, it is a wonder any harmonised legislation succeeds at all.

However, there are many significant and beneficial measures proposed, and the work on the Data Protection Regulation continues. Some notable provisions are expected to be:

  • The new regime will apply to non-EU bodies offering goods or services to those in the EU.
  • Fines of up to €100m or 2% of global turnover for breaches.
  • The right to be forgotten (or the right of erasure).

If the Regulation passes within the next year, which it is currently (although doubtfully) expected to, there will be a two year transitional period until it becomes firm law. As it is a Regulation, it will apply to each state directly, without the need for national legislation.

So, as with Eurovision, the show will relentlessly go on, and soon you will have to be “Making your mind up” whether to snigger or celebrate at the result.

Alison Marshall is an experienced lawyer and business adviser offering Intellectual Property advice to SMEs in Fife, Edinburgh and across Scotland.