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Europe Data Protection Digest | Notes from the IAPP Europe Managing Director, 16 December 2016 Related reading: NIST launches development of 'privacy framework' in Austin

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Greetings from Brussels!

Leaked documents seem to be the order of the week — yet again — here in Brussels. The first draft of the EU ePrivacy reform was leaked quite widely, going by reports in the mainstream media. With that said, a number of contentious points are still very much under discussion, and a final version is expected in January 2017. Privacy Advisor’s Brussels-based Jennifer Baker writes a weighty piece this week, having had an early morning coffee chat with MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, arguably the man who made the GDPR a reality. I think Jan had a lot to say and who better than Jennifer to order his thoughts and reflections under the "good," the "bad," and the blatantly "missing." 

It’s a good read, so I’ll let you be the judge of the draft's merits.

In other news, staying with the leaky theme, there was an additional leaked European Commission inter-institutional communication this week titled “Building a European Data Economy” on new potential EU rules around data ownership. To put it into context, Andrus Ansip, the Commission vice-president in charge of technology, announced last month that his office is considering proposing a new law around data ownership by June of 2017. As per due process, the EC intends to publish a strategy paper on the subject in January 2017, which will be followed by the technology policy unit undertaking of information gathering and analysis over several months to determine if such legislation has legs.

In a nutshell, in an age where companies across a range of industries have moved into the monetization of data business, this will not be pleasant reading. The suggestion is for the rules governing how companies can own, and share access to customer data, be transformed, obliging firms to share their data. How this might work in practice with business coherence is hard to imagine at present. Car companies, energy providers, and companies that make internet-connected home devices, health care services and financial technologies could all be hard hit if the Commission moves to regulate how they access and share large amounts of data, according to the document. It boils down in part to the European Commission being concerned over manufacturers and firms that look to “lock in” consumers to deals they cannot opt out of. Consumer groups and activists are likely to be satisfied with the content of the proposed plans.

The document goes further, proposing initiatives to guarantee "free movement of data within the EU,” akin to the free movement of goods and services. As part of a move to get rid of restrictions on where firms keep data in the 28 member-state bloc, the Commission wants to consider “enforcement actions” that would stop companies from storing data in one country and preventing it from traveling between different EU states. Looking to repeal data localization practices is a contentious subject at best, and countries such as France and Germany have already been very vocal against such plans.What is sure is that the communication in all has some controversial ideas. It remains to be seen whether or not there is enough hard empirical data to model how such legislative changes would impact the European economy. The release of a January strategy paper will hopefully shed more light.

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