Portrait of Mr. Axel Voss

Portrait of Mr. Axel Voss

Mr. Voss, could you give us an overview of the current status of the Data Protection Regulation in the EU?

In March, the European Parliament has confirmed in a plenary the compromises in relation to the Data Protection Regulation negotiated last year. However, before we can enter in this trilogue, the council first needs to meet over this topic. There may be hope that this will happen by the end of 2014, but more realistically, we are looking at the end of 2015. The council currently acts slower than we would like in the parliament. New elections and the summer break may well be a reason for this delay. Germany is often called the “brakesman” here. This is probably due to the differentiation of the Data Protection Regulation from the existing high level of data security in Germany.

Would there have been another way of making data security consistent apart from the current compromises in the Data Protection Regulation?

The Data Protection Regulation tries to combine too many different parts of life in one act. Personally, I would have preferred if there was a stronger differentiation between small and large and offline companies, public and private companies. We would then probably have found more suitable solutions and the negotiations on the compromises wouldn’t have been so complicated.

Is the Data Protection Regulation also an opportunity for European companies?

Making data protection in Europe consistent, will not only strengthen the trust of consumers in companies, but also ensures commitment for companies. The current discussion about this standard – I think – will bring the EU economy competitive advantages.  Like with “made in Germany” there is the chance to transport the data security regulation as a seal of quality into global markets. But we must not exaggerate the requirements on data protection.

What task does politics have in the discussion around data protection?

Politics and economy must ask themselves what fears consumers face, in order to create confidentiality, liability and reliability in the handling of data. Politics help to set the guideposts and maybe even global standards.

Does the discussion on data protection currently involve all parties?

In general, yes, but the NSA has shown us not only theoretically, but also practically, what is possible in a digital world. The discussion must therefore go beyond data protection as Google – in my opinion – does not behave differently than the NSA. This poses the question: How must data protection and data privacy look? To answer this question, it is necessary to sit all parties at the table, which is currently not the case. I therefore recommend the revokation of the Safe Harbor Regulation, in order to talk about a new standard, which makes the private sector inside and outside of Europe more secure. It needs to be clarified, for example, whether data from room thermostats may be used for marketing. However, this discussion can only take place when we talk to each other on the same level. If this doesn’t happen, we must be consistent and cancel the Safe Harbor Regulation.

Mr. Voss, how can we ensure that market participants outside Europe comply with the EU standard?

I understand that there are companies, which have a competitive advantage through poor protection requirements in other countries. This affects small and medium-sized companies in particular, when these try to comply with data protection policies. Small and medium-sized companies lack financial resources to stand up against globally active corporations. I therefore think, it is necessary to contemplate a market place legal principle to remove hidden subventions for non-European companies and obstacles for European companies. The goal should be a level playing field for all market players in Europe.

Is the term “Big Data” still valid in the current discussion?

Today, we refer to it as Legal Big Data. In the last few years, we were mainly dealing with the collection of data, especially in the sector of advertising companies. More important, however, is the question, how this data can be used in a legally compliant way. It must always be clear what type of use the consumer has agreed to and also what a valid agreement must look like.

Election touchstones of the Federal Association of Digital Economy (Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft e.V., BVDW)

Between 22nd May and 25th May 2014, citizens of the European Union will vote for the European Parliament for the 8th time. With the Touchstones for the European Elections 2014 set in the run-up to the elections, the BVDW expresses the expectations and requests of its member companies towards parties and future members of the European Parliament.