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After four years of up-and-downs, political wrangling, grueling negotiations and, at one point, thousands of amendments, the European Union will have a new data protection regime. The European Parliament sealed the deal Thursday in a plenary vote of support for the General Data Protection Regulation and the companion Data Protection Directive for policing and the judiciary.

 “The General Data Protection Regulation makes a high, uniform level of data protection throughout the EU a reality,” said German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who played a central role in navigating the regulation through Parliament. “This is a great success for the European Parliament and a fierce ‘yes’ to strong consumer rights and competition in the digital age.”

He added, “The regulation will also create clarity for businesses by establishing a single law across the EU. The new law creates confidence, legal certainty, and fairer competition.”

The new data protection framework will officially come into force in two years, giving businesses and organizations time to ramp up their compliance and data protection processes.  The GDPR includes provisions giving EU citizens search engine de-linking and data portability rights; mandates “clear and affirmative consent” for processing personal data; breach notification obligations; clear privacy notice; and potential fines up to 4 percent of a company’s global annual turnover. Of course, these are just some of the highlights – for more in-depth analysis, check out this page’s sidebar.

In his plenary speech to the European Parliament, Albrecht said, “We Europeans do not only export high protection of privacy and consumer rights online – we’ll also be able to set a gold standard for the digital market of tomorrow, when these standards will be essential for each and every new technology, product, and service.”

In a joint statement on the final adoption of the new rules, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, and Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova welcomed the new rules, noting the GDPR will “help stimulate the Digital Single Market in the EU by fostering trust in online services by consumers and legal certainty for businesses based on clear and uniform rules.” They also commented on the Data Protection Directive for police and the judiciary, stating it “ensures a high level of data protection while improving cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime across Europe.”

They added, “Now we must work together to implement these new standards across the EU so citizens and businesses can enjoy the benefits as soon as possible.”

Albrecht and Jourova, along with MEP Marju Lauristin published a column in Euractiv on the historic reform. “The European Commission will work closely with member states, the national data protection authorities, and stakeholders to ensure the rules will be applied uniformly across the EU,” they wrote. To help build public awareness of the reforms, the said “the EU will launch public awareness-raising campaigns about the new data protection rules.”

One such video has already been released by the Green Party.

Of course, many have taken to Twitter to issue their congratulations and advice on the reforms. 

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