Irish MEP to discuss EU data protection with Obama Administration today

6 Jun 2012

Irish MEP Sean Kelly, who is a member of the European Parliament's Industry Committee

Irish MEP Sean Kelly, the co-author of the European Parliament’s forthcoming data protection report, will today brief the Obama Administration on the EU’s stance on online privacy and its proposals for updating data protection rules in the 27 member states.

It was back in January that the European Commission proposed a reform of the EU’s 1995 data protection rules.

With more than 250m people now using the internet daily in Europe, the aim of the proposed EU’s updated data protection rules is to strengthen the safety of people’s personal data online.

Irish MEP Sean Kelly, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee, will today brief the US General Counsel of the Commerce Department, Cameron Kerry, on the issue of online privacy.

Kerry, a brother of the former US presidential candidate John Kerry, is meeting with Kelly at the Department of Commerce as part of the Irish South MEP’s visit to Washington this week.

Kelly will be discussing the fundamentals of the proposed 2012 EU Data Protection Regulation that’s currently working its way through the European Parliament.

Kelly was nominated to co-author the Parliament’s report on the data protection regulation earlier this year.

Speaking in advance of his meeting with Kerry this evening, Kelly that the interest in Washington is “enormous”.

“It is perhaps the most important piece of legislation that will emerge from the European Union for quite some time. Data protection laws in Europe are outdated. The use of personal information and data has increased exponentially along with the increase in the use of the internet. Europe needs new laws and regulations to cope with these significant new realities,” he said.

Some of the changes that are being proposed in the new legislation would see a single set of rules implemented across the EU-27 member states.

As well as this, national authorities would also be granted increased powers to impose fines on companies breaching the new laws.

And, to protect online users, another proposal is that people’s online data will not be stored if there is no legitimate grounds to do so.

Kelly was keen to stress, however, that the legislative process for the new data protection rules in the EU is still in the early stages and discussions between the relevant parties are still ongoing.

In recent weeks he has been meeting with tech giants, including Google, Facebook, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, to discuss the proposed legislation. 

While in Washington this week, Kelly is also attending a three-day meeting on global biomedical science co-operation. Topics up for debate will include EU-US scientific alliances, the Irish EU Presidency, research and development opportunities under Horizon 2020 and data protection.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic