Greetings from Brussels!
It has been an interesting week on the political front. Last Sunday night, I boarded a plane for Milan just as the results of the French presidential elections were about to be announced. Just my luck to be on a plane. As we were taxiing down the runway, however, I was able right before shutting the phone down to pick up the news of what would turn out to be a fairly comprehensive win for the young renaissance man Emmanuel Macron.
I have some thoughts on Macron, but I was in Milan for the third edition of the ASSO DPO Annual Congress conference, attracting 300-plus delegates over the two-day programming. I was fortunate to share a panel platform with some of the EU national Data Protection associations, namely with Cecilia Álvarez Rigaudias of the APEP (Spain), Jonathan Baines of NADPO (U.K.), Caroline Olstedt Carlstrom of Data Protection Forum (Sweden), Xavier Leclercq of CNDPO (France), Steffen Weiß of the GDD (Germany) and local Matteo Colombo of the ASSO DPO (Italy). The theme of our presentations and discussion was centered around the role of the DPO under the GDPR and how our respective organizations are supporting privacy professionals in Europe. The panel was chaired by Ernst-Oliver Wilhelm, a long-standing member of the IAPP.
I must admit as I travel around Europe, I find it heartening that there is such high level of interest and debate around what the DPO role will entail for the future, and moreover, a "general consensus" that the privacy function will be fundamental to business strategy and data subject rights as provisioned under the GDPR. This was also reinforced by Giovanni Buttarelli of the EDPS, who left the audience in no doubt through his address.
I have seen Giovanni speak on several occasions, by the way, and this was for me one of his more captivating speeches. Perhaps being on home soil was key. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear at the conference an overwhelming expression of passion and confidence by many — including some of my fellow panelists — in the desire for a stable and strong Europe. Perhaps the Macron factor was at play. All in all, while the event had an Italian feel, the content had a definitive European flavor. Furthermore, in what concerns the European Data Protection Associations, as well as the IAPP here in Europe, it was agreed that cooperation and a consistent message to the privacy community, both at the local member state and Pan-European level, would benefit everyone in the privacy community.
And now a quick mention on the president-elect of France, Emmanuel Macron. He is a young and a new figure in an aging political landscape. He ran a very open, optimistic and pro-European campaign while many candidates were surfing on austerity and fear. Taken the second-round choice, his political victory is a victory for Europe, as well as international business, bringing a certain continuity on issues like international affairs, security, health care and environment. But he is also a disruptive voice, definitely more business oriented and free-market friendly than current President François Hollande.
In Europe, Emmanuel Macron wants French digital champions to blossom, which will only be possible if a level playing field is restored between EU actors. He would like to further closer collaboration between member states in areas such as data protection, as well as online platform regulation and business taxation. Macron has already voiced his dissatisfaction with the Privacy Shield and has called for the EU to renegotiate the framework, saying that the data protection standard is insufficient to meet European, or at least French, privacy needs. While Macron certainly may think Privacy Shield inadequate, the EU will have the final say as the Shield comes up for review in September. He has also stated on the campaign trail that he would push for a common European initiative to cooperate on encryption (he is not a fan) and build a legal requisition system for law enforcement to access personal data critical to national security. Lastly, the Macron victory also means that French data will not be undergoing a data localization policy, as promised in Marine Le Pen's FN manifesto.
With the French economy in the midst of an upswing, it’s a good time to be elected: I hear the clamor of “En Marche!”
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