thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

EU Commission will link data retention reform to e-privacy reform in 2013

EU home affairs commissioner Cecila Malmström has announced in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that she will not propose a revision of the notorious data retention directive this year. Instead, she will work with information society commissioner Neelie Kroes to review the e-privacy directive and the data retention directive together in 2013.

This is big news. Malmström and her services have been struggling with the data retention reform for almost two years. Now she and Kroes want to reform it together with the e-privacy directive in a package, both closing loopholes for further data use in the latter and reducing retention periods and police access in the former.

My reading is this: The liberal Malmström does not know how to get out of this data retention mess in one piece, with activists and "the internet" (c.f. ACTA) on one side, and home affairs ministers in Council on the other side. So she is now siding with Kroes in a hope to get anything agreed under the stewartship of an experienced telco regulator. They will try to ease industry opposition and in return get an okay for a limited version of data retention.

The big question is: How will this interact with the data protection reform package proposed by justice commissioner Viviane Reding in January? It was supposed to also amend and have an impact on the e-privacy directive with the data protection regulation for the internal market, and the proposed directive on data protection in the law enforcement field would need some rules on access of police investigators to corporate databases about their customers.

Time for some interesting coalition-building of institutional players, activists and lobbyists all across the field.

Competing schools in political science would suggest:
  1. Whoever gets the major conflict lines and narratives set up first and firmly, will win (constructivism);
  2. Whoever controls the institutional agenda, will win (institutionalism);
  3. Whoever is in better understanding of economic and political interests, will win (realism).
And this finally reminds me of my academic years and also shows how unpredictable all of this is in theory. Think ACTA, again.

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