Thursday, 16 January 2014

Time to abolish the EDPS?

If I were an oik working for the European Commission, and tasked with nominating a replacement for Peter Hustinx, the former European Data Protection Supervisor, I would draft the following memo to my boss:

"I think it’s time to review the Office of the European Data Protection Supervisor. It is a department that oversees data protection compliance of a number of European institutions.  

The rules for data protection in the EU - as well as the duties of the EDPS - are set out in Regulation (EC) No 45/2001. One of the duties is to advise the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council on proposals for new legislation and a wide range of other issues that have an impact on data protection. There is no reason why this task cannot be carried out collectively by members of the Article 29 Working Party. They’re always issuing opinions that most people ignore, so a few more opinions won’t cause any problems.

Another duty is relates to the supervision and prior-checking of EU institutions and bodies processing personal data that present specific risks to the rights and freedoms of individuals. There is no reason why this duty cannot be carried out by the data protection regulator of the EU Member State that hosts the headquarters of the relevant institution and body. They are, after all,  responsible for regulating all the other data controllers within their jurisdiction.

The final duty is to travel the globe, speaking to international conferences on any subject that can be associated with data protection. Most senior representatives from the Commission, and from other national data protection regulators, could carry out this task.  They’re only speaking opportunities, after all.

A decision to abolish the Office of the EDPS would send a powerful message to European citizens. It would demonstrate that the European Commission is determined to make significant budgetary savings, and that it is prepared to defer competencies to Member States, rather than create more competencies for itself.

It would also get the Commission out of the scandalous mess it has found itself in, by allowing an anonymous inter-institutional EU selection board to announce, just days before the incumbent’s term of office expired, that, after a thorough search, it had found no candidates that are suitably qualified for the role. The announcement has caused a lot of people to be worried that their failed applications will eventually be leaked onto the internet. And, that announcement is bound to scare off other heavyweight players from bothering to apply. Being rejected by an anonymous selection panel is not what many people would be happy to be known for.

The best way to ensure that no strong willed EDPS is ever appointed is to abolish the post and share out the responsibilities between a much larger group of individuals.Who really wants to hear the EDPS drone on about the threats of drones, driverless cars, cybercrime, wearable technologies, children and on-line identity, the intellectual property of 3D printed objects and the potential of a Bulkanised internet? Baroness Martha Lane Fox is much more entertaining on that sort of stuff.

If the above suggestion is adopted, please may I have my EU “bright idea” fee paid to me in Bitcoins. Not in Euros, thank you very much."