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Data protection law drafts copied straight from lobby papers, campaigners claim

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) copied text suggested by major US-based business groups into draft provisions they would like to see incorporated into a reformed EU data protection framework, campaigners have claimed.13 Feb 2013

The Europe v Facebook group, which has previously raised concerns about the social network's data protection practices, said that the information had been copied, in some cases "word-by-word", from lobby papers drafted by Amazon, eBay and the American Chamber of Commerce among others.

"In preparation for conferences and a hearing in Brussels I read recent decisions by the European Parliament," Max Schrems, co-founder of Europe v Facebook, said in a statement. "When later reading some of the published lobbying papers I found a lot of interesting similarities. In many cases, parliamentarians copied amendments word-by-word from lobby papers by Amazon, eBay, or the financial industry."

"We have decided not to disclose [the] names [of the MEPs who the group claim copied the lobby group text] in the documents we put online," he added. "It is not our intention to target individual MEPs, but to show how years of lobbying by the industry perfectly worked and is now possibly destroying our rights. The IT industry is about to kill our fundamental right to data protection and privacy and some parliamentarians apparently do not even notice when assisting them."

Currently the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee at the European Parliament is leading a multiple-committee review of proposals to overhaul the EU's data protection law regime that were first outlined by the European Commission in January 2012.

In a draft opinion issued last month, MEP Jan-Philipp Albrecht outlined changes he would like to see made to the Commission's plans. Albrecht is the rapporteur for LIBE on the data protection reforms. The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection at the European Parliament submitted its opinion (120-page / 708KB PDF) to LIBE on the reforms at the end of last month.

LIBE is set for an official vote on the terms of the reforms in April, before the issue goes to a vote of the whole European Parliament. A similar program of review and amendments is ongoing at the Council of Ministers.

A US diplomat recently warned that changes to EU data protection laws could herald a "trade war". The framework of provisions proposed by the European Commission would apply not only to businesses based in the EU but also to organisations processing the personal data of EU citizens regardless of where that processing takes place.

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