Greetings from Brussels!
This week, I was in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and at the heart of the Europe. What a splendid city, often described as the "city of 100 spires," owing to its many church towers. Famous for its cultural life — home to the likes of Kafka and Dvorak — Prague is a real gem architecturally, with a smattering of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque edifices mixed with a balance of art nouveau and modern town planning. I’d never been to Prague, but I will certainly be back to enjoy the city’s vistas at a later date.
The purpose of my visit to Prague was the inaugural Prague KnowledgeNet meeting, which was held in the delightful surroundings of the Café Louvre, built in 1902, itself steeped in considerable literary and artistic history. Rewind to 2016: I had the pleasure of meeting IAPP member and privacy professional Eva Škorničková here at our Brussels office to discuss the GDPR and its pending implementation in Europe and in the Czech Republic. And there we decided to work together to bring the first IAPP KNet to her native soil. The event was attended by more than 60 privacy professionals, including both IAPP and non-members alike (while KNets are member benefits, we often make them open in areas where our membership base is still developing). We were fortunate to have in attendance EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourová, accompanied by Deputy Head of Cabinet Daniel Braun. If you were unaware, Commissioner Jourová is a Czech national, and it was an honor to have her keynote the inaugural Prague KNet. A big thank you to Eva for making this happen.
From the content perspective, we ran a bilingual event in English and Czech to allow for linguistic bridges; such is the reality of Europe. On my side, I spoke to the legitimization of the DPO role under the GDPR — and what it means for professionals and organizations — and presented the IAPP as an organization, along with recent updates on where we are both in Europe and globally. This is something I get asked about frequently. Commissioner Jourová presented in her native language, making some statements in English for my benefit.
With the translation support of Eva, this is a summary of what was said:
Commissioner Jourová reiterated her continued support for the ongoing efforts in implementing data protection reform in Europe, via both the GDPR and the forthcoming ePrivacy Regulation. However, an important note here is that the ePrivacy Regulation does not fall under her remit, and in response to questions, she advised the audience present to contact their respective EU MEPs for comment or proposed changes to the draft. She spoke broadly to the subject of European sensitivity to issues relating to the right to privacy and acknowledged that this was culturally diverse in Europe, as well as elsewhere in the world. She drew parallels with the U.S., where she stated that security is typically valued above privacy and treated so accordingly. During her recent visits to the U.S., she had the opportunity to meet with the new Trump administration, where she felt a strong indication that the subject of personal data protection will become even more of a sensitive issue in discussions between Europe and U.S.
Jourová also expressed a certain level of concern that European citizens — mainly in Central and Eastern Europe — are insufficiently informed as to the extent of their personal data protection and rights to privacy. In her view, citizens underestimate these threats, and as a result, her service will launch a massive EU citizen information campaign by January 2018 at the latest. It should tell people about the new rights that the GDPR affords them. Importantly, Jourová said: “I want people to give a really conscious consent that can be withdrawn if they so wish.”
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