Wednesday 18 February 2015

More positive news from the European Commission about the data reform package

If you want to cheer yourself up, just surf over to the European Commission’s website and read all about the amazing benefits that the impending data protection reform package will deliver.

Wow, it’s impressive.

Benefits for citizens and businesses – particularly small and medium sized businesses. Citizens will be put back in control of their own data. The “right to be forgotten” gets another airing. Consent cannot be assumed. Saying nothing is not the same as saying yes. Businesses will save €2.3 billion a year by dealing with one law, not 28.

If we are to believe the hype, "It is a golden opportunity. By fostering a Digital Single Market, we can create up to €250 billion in additional growth, hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and a vibrant knowledge-based society."

So what’s the problem? Why the delay? Who’s opposing this wonderful measure?

This is where the Commission’s website fails to deliver.

Nowhere is there even a summary of the principle issues that have yet to be resolved, with an explanation about why Member States continue to have significant concerns. For that sort of information, you need to dive deep into the footnotes of the DAPIX documents that occasionally appear online.

This is a lost opportunity – if you expect the Commission to be even-handed in its reporting of the issue, that is.

What we read is a one sided summary of the issue, full of stock paragraphs that could so easily be inserted into the speech of any politician / public official tasked with delivering a homily on the benefits of the reform package.

Journalists that want to cover the potential deficiencies of the reform package have to work a lot harder if they are to file a decent report. The lack of an alternative narrative is unsettling. If the package were so good, why is the gestation period proving to be so difficult? 

Perhaps the Commission’s website is not the place to go for impartial news about legislative proposals. Perhaps it exists purely to promote the Commission’s aims and aspirations.

But if it wishes to rise about the political debate, it should be bold enough to acknowledge that every proposal has its detractors, and that their views could also be made available to European citizens, perhaps through hyperlinks from the Commission’s website, in order that citizens can determine for themselves whether public policymakers are taking appropriate decisions.